Saturday, May 2, 2009

Worcester Sharks Fraser McLaren: Wanna Go?

As a frat boy at Syracuse it seems like me and my fellow TEP's were always getting in a weekend scrap. Not sure if it was too much booze, too much testosterone, or too many gals that we were dying to give a tour of the inside of TEP Palace.

Every Friday or Saturday at 2 p.m. and sometimes an occasional Sunday through Thursday ended with the Weekly Square Dance. I was a muscular little fire plug in those days and was always ready to drop the gloves and go a round or two.

My ring wasn’t the square circle and certainly wasn’t surrounded by ropes or turn buckles, but the pavement in front of Sutters Mill, Buggy's Bar and Tavern and good ol Hungry Chucks.

Our weekly Battle Royal started for any of a number of reasons.

  • For looking at a brother cross eyed
  • For checking out our TEP Little Sisters or any sorority gal a bit too long.
  • "Yes, I do mind if you dance with my date."
  • To cover the back of any drunken TEP brother

Not sure what our record was in those matches. I suspect we won a few more than we lost. But we didn’t keep score. I just know that I came home many a night with a busted lip, in need of a stitch or two, or seeing the world through one slightly closed eye. Rarely did I end a night with out a little blood on my knuckles and someones tooth imprint in my hand.

My Dad had a buddy in the Army who was a parachute jumper. Dad once asked him if he liked to jump. He replied, “No, but I like to hang out with guys who do like to jump.“

The analogy being, that I am now 47 and haven’t fought for 25 years (well, except for defending a buddy in Barbados a couple summers ago). But I still like to hang out with guys who do.

So when I had the opportunity to do a Q and A with the Worcester Sharks resident tough hombre, Fraser McClaren, I assumed I'd be chatting with a fighter who occasionally plays hockey. Instead I found a skilled and articulate hockey player, who occasionally has to watch the backs of his "Brothers" or set the tone of a game.

I couldn't resist asking the Enforcer On Ice a few questions that I've always wanted to know. I asked him what he says to his opponent, as if comparing his answer to my repertoire.

"I usually say "Do you wanna go or whatever I think of at the time" said the 22-year-old left winger. "Sometimes you don't need to say anything at all. You both just no it's time."

"Sometimes you have to stick up for a teammate. Sometimes you just need to send a message to the other team or even to your own teammates if the team came out flat. I see it as my responsibility to set the tone of the game. Though other guys on the team sometimes do the same."

Fraser stands at 6'5" and tips the scale at 228 pounds of solid granite. When on skates the pride of Winnipeg, MB Canada adds a few inches to his mountain man frame.

"I'm not a fan of staged fighting." he explained, while spitting out a tooth or some blood or someone's ear. "This is when two guys go because they are expected to. Like it is their role to fight to give the audience there monies worth. I think I good hit has the same or better effect than a fight."

I asked him how fighting on skates compares to fighting in street shoes. "I don't know. I never have fought in street shoes", laughed Fraser quickly reminding me that fighting is simply part of his job not an anger issue.

McLaren in his first year with the Sharks is more than just the teams tough guy but a guy who can handle the stick as well as his gloves. He came to the team at the end of 2007 and played in only four games. This year, however, he played in all 75 Sharks games and netted seven goals and one assist.

Prior to joining the Sharks, McLaren finished sixth on his Canadian Junior team in points with 40 in 66 games.

"I consider myself to be a power forward more than a fighter. I love to kill penalties and really take pride in that part of my game. Most thugs don't kill penalties."

Fraser's earned a ten-minute misconduct and a season-high for penalty minutes when he scuffled with Steve MacIntyre (Providence) in only his third game with the Sharks last season. He scuffled for the first time in his AHL career with tough guy Kevin Westgarth of the Manchester Monarchs.

Despite being able to put the puck in the net on occasion, Fraser hopes to get to the NHL because of his ability to hit, bang and occasionally drop the gloves. McLaren broke the 600 career penalty minute plateau earlier this season after seasons with the Portland Winter Hawks and the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League.

"I hope to get to the NHL with the San Jose Sharks since they are the team that drafted me. But if that doesn't work out, I'd be happy just playing hockey."

McLaren, who leads the Sharks with 21 major fighting penalties in 75 games, once scored a Gordie Howe hat trick (a goal, an assist and a fight) in a game when he was with Moose Jaw. "I think I got a goal and two assists and then got jumped from behind to complete the trick, laughed Fraser.

As I was ready to wrap up my interview with the Mighty McLaren, I had one final question. Coincidentally, it is one that ties in with the Sharks ticket selling campaign. "Wanna Go?" I asked.

That's the last thing I remember. McLaren showed me why he's the toughest dude at the DCU and why I'm a 47-year-old sportswriter with a glass jaw.

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