Via Iain Colpitts | Mississauga News
Photos by Rob Beintema
Tom Frater tries his best to stay behind the scenes. He feels that should be the case for all equipment managers.
But, on Friday, Jan. 19, the Mississauga Steelheads couldn’t help but give him a little recognition during a PA announcement explaining he was serving in his 1,000th game in the OHL.
Earlier this season, some players and friends had figured out his 1,000th game would be coming up and asked him if he knew when it would be.
“I did the math and told them it was in a couple of weeks or whatnot,” said Frater, who first became an OHL equipment manager in 2003.
“It was more the players who called upstairs and said, ‘Frater’s 1,000th game (is coming up).’ I was appreciative and the guys were really good about it.”
Frater noticed on Friday that Steelheads defenceman Stephen Gibson had tweeted it was going to be his 1,000th game that night, so he retweeted that and it started spreading like wildfire.
For years, Frater has been like a big brother to players on the team. While he’s all business in his approach and is known leaguewide for having a tough exterior, he also has a dry sense of humour. There are lots of times where he’ll bust players’ chops and the ones who know him best are just as quick to give it back.
Over the years, he’s noticed that junior team equipment managers have had to become a jack of all trades.
“We’re a psychiatrist, we’re a travel agent. There’s a lot of hats you’re wearing, whereas in pro, there’s so many different people,” he said.” The job has really changed, especially with off-ice issues that can’t be swept under the rug anymore.”
After five years of working for various professional teams, including stints in the AHL and CFL, Frater took a job with the OHL’s Belleville Bulls in 2003, after his former team, the AHL’s Saint John Flames, folded.
One of the players on the Flames was friends with Bulls coach James Boyd and put the two in touch. When he took that job, he initially told himself he’d do it for one year and then go back to pro, but he grew to love major junior hockey.
He and Boyd eventually moved on to the Toronto St. Michael’s Majors and the franchise was moved to Mississauga in 2007.
The job has definitely kept him on his toes and he’s had to come up with a lot of audibles to adapt to unforeseen circumstances. He has a number of volunteers he can’t work without and they’re just as dedicated to their job as he is.
“Our biggest thing is we want to have everything done by three o’clock (for a Friday night game), so the skates are done, the jerseys are done and the dressing room is spotless,” Frater said. “When our guys show up, all we want them to worry about is hockey.”