It’s a cold Thursday night in Ottawa and the Tampa Bay Lightning have just rolled into town to take on the hometown Ottawa Senators.
The season has been a write-off so far but that doesn’t stop the Sens from coming to the rink to work hard and do whatever they can to make life difficult for the Lightning. Tampa is the NHL’s best team, of course.
While the season is essentially over for the Sens, things are just getting started for Callum Fraser. A graduate of Algonquin’s journalism program a mere two years ago, Fraser was named the beat reporter for the Senators on NHL.com in January.
At only 22 years old, Fraser has also already spent nearly two years as a producer with TSN 1200, one of Ottawa’s top sports radio stations. In addition to the production work, he also hosts his own show on Saturdays at 4 p.m. called Battle of the Atlantic. The show started at CKDJ at Algonquin with former classmate and long-time friend Alec Brownscombe and now features Marc Dumont from The Athletic Montreal as well.
Although it may seem like he achieved all this success overnight, Fraser simply never stopped working towards his goal and made countless sacrifices to be where he is today. Even while he was in school, he was writing about sports for various media outlets on his own time, trying to constantly better himself.
“I basically just worked like a maniac for two years,” he says. “Juggling, writing for The Hockey Writers and SBNation, doing our own radio show for CKDJ.”
His hard work and dedication to his craft are what earned him the spot with the NHL’s website. Instead of seeking out the position, it was actually the website that had headhunted him.
“They reached out to me and said ‘we’d like to give you a shot and we’ll give you an interview.’ We had a very long interview a couple days later and they told me to do a trial run,” he says. “So for an away game, I basically just wrote up a recap, sent it in at the buzzer and then, with whatever quotes I could find outside of getting access, I just wrote up the buzzer story. So I did that and then a couple days later they said, ‘you got the job’ and then I started a week after that.”
In addition to writing buzzer stories, Fraser writes game previews and recaps, breaking news stories and features. For example, when the Senators traded Dion Phaneuf to the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 13, Fraser was at the rink the next morning talking to players and management about their thoughts on the deal.
It may sound like a dream job to a die-hard hockey nut, but getting here required some dedication and hard work.
While friends and classmates were doing things that most college students do, like partying, going to the movies or playing video games, Fraser was working towards his goal.
“I was interviewing, mingling, and networking with other journalists in the industry and doing a bunch of freelance work as well,” he said.
He was purposefully stubborn about where he wanted to go and what kind of person he wanted to be after he discovered that being a successful journalist requires more than just good grades.
In fact, during his time at Algonquin, Fraser split his focus 50/50 between school and extracurriculars. Still, he knew that the completion of the program was a necessary hurdle to overcome in order to be successful.
“You need it,” he said. “That’s the thing that gets you the interview; your experience gets you the job.”
Fraser, by his own admission, was not the greatest student to ever walk the halls of Algonquin, but that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t a hard worker.
“Callum was always professional, seemed to be driven and was polite,” said Teri Loretto in an e-mail. Loretto was Fraser’s introduction to newsroom broadcasting professor. She said he missed the occasional class but still managed to get all his assignments finished without complaint.
Like most Canadian children, Fraser loved to watch his favourite team, the Senators, with his family. His father, Jamie, had season tickets and would bring him along on occasion. What set him apart from other kids his age, however, was his love for writing about his hockey experiences.
During school, Fraser was required to write a feature profile piece on anyone he chose. He chose Ian Mendes, host of The Drive on TSN 1200. Fraser had left a memorable impression on Mendes, and Mendes saw potential that simply could not be squandered.
“You could tell that he was super eager to break into this field and I was impressed by his ability to write,” he said in an e-mail. “For me, not enough young broadcasters have the passion for writing, but Callum does. So that was one thing that impressed me about him and something that stuck out to me — that he was somebody we would probably want inside the TSN 1200 family down the road.”
Mendes mentioned to John Rodenburg, the station manager at TSN 1200, that Fraser should be given an opportunity. He was hired, and the day after his internship ended in April 2016, he started working.
While Fraser loves what he does and couldn’t imagine doing anything else, it doesn’t come without hard work, long hours and sacrifice.
“When the Grey Cup happened, I worked 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for TSN and then I walked over to the other station and worked for CFRA from 5 p.m. to midnight,” he said.
For those of you who aren’t counting, that’s a 14-hour work day. Fraser barely even notices since he is living his childhood dream.
“The idea of actually being able to cover the Ottawa Senators as a job to pay my mortgage off, I laugh every day that I’m allowed to do it,” he said.
“If you’re doing what you love, then it’s not really work.”