Greg Fraser enjoyed his return to Prince George, snow and all, this week.
"I don't miss the cold but I do miss the snow, being able to climb in the snow a little bit and having snowball fights -- those are always fun times," said the 20-year-old forward with the Nanaimo Clippers in the B.C. Hockey League.
Before returning to his hometown to wrap up his junior hockey career, Fraser spent four seasons with the Prince George Cougars in the Western Hockey League.
Fraser said he made the decision to play in Nanaimo for practical reasons but there's a nice added benefit.
"I talked with Dallas [Thompson, Cougars GM] and my agent at the beginning of the year about possibly going pro and we all decided I was probably better to move forward in my life and look to school next year," said Fraser.
He's talking classes at Vancouver Island University, with the intention of transferring to a Canadian Interuniversity Sport school, where he can study kinesiology while playing hockey.
The Cougars made Fraser the final selection in the 15th round of the 2007 WHL bantam draft and the six-foot-one, 183-pound centre played in 252 regular-season games with the Cats, tallying 45 goals and 73 points. But during his tenure in Prince George the Cougars only qualified for the playoffs twice, in 2009 and 2011, getting swept in four games both seasons.
For Fraser, an added bonus in playing with the Clippers this season, where he had 13 goals and 41 points in 40 games before Friday night's game at the Coliseum against the Prince George Spruce Kings, is the fact that the Clippers are hosting the inaugural Western Canada Cup, April 27 to May 5, with the top two teams qualifying for the RBC Royal Bank Cup national championship tournament.
"I was real excited to learn we will be playing straight through May, that's one thing I hadn't been able to do up here," said Fraser. "As hard as it's going to be, it'll be exciting to play some playoff games and have some success in the playoffs. I'm excited to try and get to the Royal Bank Cup, it'll be a good time for the team if we do."
The Clippers are in a battle with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs for second place in the Coastal conference.
Clippers general manager and head coach Mike Vandekamp said when he heard Fraser wasn't planning on returning for his overage season in the WHL he contacted him right away.
"He brings a calm maturity to our team," said Vandekamp, a former head coach of the Cougars. "He's worked hard every day for us this year and is a good leader by example and he plays in all situations. He's a very versatile player.
"We were lucky," he added. "He's a player that's from our community so for him to come and play his final year of junior in his hometown was a positive thing for him and a real big positive for us."
A good playoff run with the Clippers is Fraser's top priority until September when he'll hopefully be playing and studying at a CIS school, but the former Cat is keeping the dream of playing in the professional ranks in the back of his mind.
"There's always Europe or the AHL," said Fraser, who visited his ex-billets Byron and Janice Roberts during his brief return to Prince George. "I'm not too sure what's going to happen but right now I'm getting ready to go to school and go somewhere where I'll have success."
Fraser and the Clippers traveled back to Nanaimo after Friday's x-x win/loss to the Spruce Kings.