In a foreign city and country, Red Deer’s Matt Fraser woke up to something that would scare even the toughest of people.
“I woke up one morning and I couldn’t even move in my bed,” said Fraser. “I couldn’t even get out of bed. It’s a little bit scarier when you’re not at home. You’re not sure if it’s something you ate over there or something you’re reacting to.”
The right winger was about the start the season in the Swedish Hockey League, playing for Rögle BK, in a town called Ängelholm, about 30 minutes north of Malmö on the coast of Sweden.
Fraser has since found out he was dealing with a bad bout of arthritis, and hasn’t been able to suit up at all this season for Rögle. He was home checking with some doctors in Canada last week, and hopes to be back on the ice soon.
“I have some arthritis that I’m dealing with,” said the 26-year-old.
“Hoping to go back next week and there’s still another month and a half, two months left in the season. It’s been a long summer. I’ve kind of got things under control where I think I can go back and play. Not just play but be effective. Not just go out there and go through the motions.”
Being on the sidelines for a team you just joined has been especially tough on Fraser but he said with the support he’s received in Ängelholm, he can’t wait to suit up.
“Going over there for the first time, you don’t really realize, or you don’t really know, what you’re getting into.
“Everyone from the people that live there to the management to the players on the team have been outstanding,” he said.
“It’s unbelievable, it’s like a soccer stadium with an ice rink. You get those fans. It’s definitely been hard not to play in front of them. At the same time, I’m excited to go back as soon as I can.”
While he was in Red Deer last week, Fraser stepped into the broadcast booth to help with colour commentary on the Red Deer Rebels radio broadcast.
Before the game, he received some sage advice from his mom. She laughed and told him he has a face for radio in her effort to lighten the mood.
“It was fun,” said Fraser. “I’d definitely do it again … it’s a little easier when you played the game, you pick up on little tendencies of players.”
The veteran of almost 100 NHL games with Dallas, Boston and Edmonton, Fraser said a lot of where he learned how to pick up on those tendencies he learned in Red Deer.
Although he only played eight games in with the Rebels before being traded to the Kootenay Ice, where he went on to win a WHL championship in his 20-year-old season, he still comes home to skate in the summer.
“I was here long enough to always play Red Deer with a chip on my shoulder,” Fraser said.
“At the end of the day, Brent (Sutter) and the Rebels have been so good to me as a professional. Skating with them and (Dave Horning) taking care of us in the summer. One of my best friends is Merrick Sutter. One of my best friends is Brandon Sutter … (the team) has been amazing.”
With all the support back home, Fraser just hopes there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and he can make Red Deer proud playing hockey soon enough.
“It’s definitely been frustrating,” he said. “Sometimes you just get dealt that card and at the end of the day you gotta make the best of it.”