Jamie Fraser just happened to check his phone when the email came in.
“It was Jim Nill,” said the Sarnia native, who had just wrapped up his season with the Austrian Hockey League’s Vienna Capitals, and was getting ready to head home last week.
Nill, Canada’s GM for the 2015 IIHF World Championship, was looking for a fill-in defenceman for the team’s three day mini-camp and pre-tournament game in Austria.
“He asked if I was still in Vienna, and if I’d be interested in playing,” said Fraser, 29. “So I called my wife at home in Sarnia and asked what she thought about me staying an extra week.”
Danielle Fraser had already returned home in March, with the couple’s now four-month-old son Jackson. Fraser, meanwhile, had been itching to get home to see them.
“She told me, ‘Absolutely. You’ve gotta do it.’”
So, the former Sarnia Sting player joined the likes of Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux, Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin for three days of practice, as well as Team Canada’s only pre-season game, at his Vienna team’s home arena.
“It was a little awkward at first, because I only knew one player on the team,” Fraser said, pointing to his junior days in Brampton with current San Jose defenceman Brent Burns. “They’re all younger guys; all NHL superstars… but they were great.”
Fraser even got to show them around the city, which has become his second home in recent years.
And then, just when the story couldn’t get much better, Fraser scored the game-winning goal in Canada’s 4-2 win over Austria — while some 7,000 fans chanted his name.
“I’ve played there for three years, so the fans there are really supportive of me,” he said. “It’s not common to cheer for the opposing team, but I pretty much got a standing ovation. They whole crowd was calling my name.
“It was a pretty cool night.”
After the game, Fraser was packing his bags to head home.
His stint with Team Canada may have been one for the highlight reel, but his biggest reward was waiting for him in Sarnia.
“I love Vienna, but after nine months, it’s time to get home,” said Fraser, who hadn’t seen friends and family for months, and by then, had been apart from his wife and baby boy for more than six weeks.
“It’s been hard,” he said. “I’m just dying to see them.”