Former NHL referee Kerry Fraser, 65, has incurable cancer

Kerry Fraser, who refereed more than 2,000 NHL games in a 30-year career and is widely known for an infamous non-call on Wayne Gretzky during the 1993 Stanley Cup playoffs he later admitted was a mistake, has incurable cancer.

Following genetic blood testing recently, the 65-year-old native of Sarnia, Ont., was diagnosed with essential thrombocythemia, a rare chronic blood disorder and cancer in the leukemia family.

“I was planning on living a healthy, full life for many more years,” said Fraser in a self-authored story posted at nhl.com. “Now that I know I have this disease, I can take extra precautions to keep my blood thinner and hopefully prevent a blood clot from hitting my heart or brain.”

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Kerry Fraser was often teased for a tremendous head of hair. He refereed his final NHL game on April 11, 2010 in Philadelphia. (Glenn Cratty/Allsport/File)

The greatest health risk in patients with essential thrombocythemia, or ET, wrote Fraser, is an increased risk of developing blood clots. As a result, they are more likely to have a stroke or heart attack.

Fraser was examined by hematologist, Dr. Stefan Barta, during a follow-up appointment at the world-renowned Fox Chase Cancer Center in northeast Philadelphia less than two weeks ago.

‘I consider myself blessed’

“Dr. Barta was quick to point out that while it is an incurable cancer,” wrote Fraser, “those afflicted can live a normal life for many years. I will be having a bone marrow biopsy to be certain that the disease has not progressed.

“I consider myself blessed that this rare disease was diagnosed before I had a stroke or heart attack,” added Fraser, who shares seven children with his wife Kathy and 10 grandchildren. “My family gives me strength and a good reason to prioritize my goals in life. My faith gives me the peace to know that all is in God’s hands.”

Fraser officiated his final NHL game on April 11, 2010 in Philadelphia, where the hometown Flyers faced the New York Rangers. For his final assignments, he had requested Original Six teams.

Often teased for a tremendous head of hair, Fraser joined the NHL’s officials association in 1973. Twenty years later, on a May evening at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., his non-call on Gretzky, the Los Angeles Kings centre, for high-sticking the Leafs’ Doug Gilmour changed the complexion of the 1993 Clarence Campbell finals.


Rather than Gretzky serving a four-minute penalty, he scored a power-play goal at 1:41 of overtime for a 5-4 victory in Game 6. Two nights later, the Kings prevailed 5-4 at Maple Leaf Gardens to win the best-of-seven series before going on to lose the Stanley Cup final to the Montreal Canadiens.

“I have a hard time forgiving myself looking at the replays,” Fraser, hailed as a great official and ambassador of the game, told the Toronto Star in 2010. “There’s human error with everthing; unfortunately, that one had some consequences.”

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