During player introductions at KeyBank Center, the roar from the crowd when Chase Fraser’s name is announced is arguably among the loudest of any player on the team.
His charisma and fighting spirit mesh perfectly with Banditland, which might be why those cheers can be so deafening.
“I don’t think I would be having as much fun anywhere else,” Fraser said. “I really love it here.”
Now in his fourth year in the organization, the 13th overall selection in the 2017 NLL Draft has made significant strides in his game. This season, he’s up to 15 goals and has already set a career-high with 17 assists through 11 games.
With more experience and confidence, Fraser has flourished into one of the best right-handed shots in the NLL due to his pinpoint accuracy. Whether he is shooting from distance or near the crease, picking apart opposing goaltenders.
He’s known both for his ability to make highlight-reel plays with reckless abandon on full-extension dunk attempts and scoring in bunches with jaw-dropping goals.
But what many fans don’t know is the fan favorite’s improbable journey to lacrosse’s biggest stage.
Growing up in Vancouver, British Columbia, Chase started playing baseball due to his parent’s love of the game. Once he realized that there “wasn’t enough physical contact” for his liking, Fraser looked to lacrosse as a suitable alternative after seeing his younger stepbrothers play.
Fraser became a lacrosse standout throughout his middle school years and was invited to a college recruiter event in eighth grade.
“When I got there, I realized that there were even high school recruiters there too,” Fraser said.
“I was asked if I would be interested in pursuing lacrosse to get an education in America, which was something that wasn’t known as a possibility in Northwest Canada.”
After mulling the decision with his family, Chase made his way to the United States to attend the Blue Ridge School, an all-boys boarding school near Charlottesville, Virginia.
Attending the school was a culture shock for him. At 14, he now lived over 3,000 miles away from his family.
But his hunger to play professionally kept him going and dozens of colleges recruited him for their lacrosse programs. Eventually, Fraser chose Neumann University, located outside of Philadelphia, as his home for the next four years, furthering his progression to play at the next level.
“In the summer months, I would go back home and play in a Junior A box lacrosse league,” he said. “That’s really where I was pushing to play professionally – in box in comparison to field – so that was a great time for me to prove to scouts that I could play in the NLL.”
Following a 66-goal senior year at Neumann, Buffalo selected Fraser in the second round of the 2017 NLL Draft. Prior to the draft, Fraser only knew three things about Buffalo: cold weather, the Buffalo Bills (an old college roommate was a diehard fan) and that John Tavares had played for the Bandits.
To add even more uncertainty, Fraser also didn’t know anyone on the team other than his new teammate Josh Byrne, who was selected first overall.
The two British Columbia natives battled against one another growing up, and their relationship was vastly different than it is now.
“We honestly didn’t like each other,” Fraser said. “We both had that cocky type of attitude on and off the field. I played juniors with one of his best friends, Tyrell Hamer-Jackson, and he always told me how [Josh] was not as bad as you think.”
When they found out they would become teammates, Fraser looked at Byrne and said, “Well, it looks like we have to be really good buddies now.”
The two gained a mutual respect for one another through Hamer-Jackson (who now plays for Vancouver) and came to the realization that they had much more in common than they initially thought.
Fraser didn’t see the field much as a rookie, which was the wake-up call he needed to be successful in the NLL.
“Growing up, everyone that plays professional is also the number one guy,” he said. “I needed that experience my rookie season to take a step by observing the veterans and learning.
“(Tavares) becoming the head coach my second season was huge for me too because I learned to let the game come to me. I’m someone that plays with so much energy and emotion, sometimes I just always wanted to be on the go.”
Fresh off a hat-trick performance in their last game against the Philadelphia Wings, Fraser looks to use keep that production going during a busy stretch of four games in eight days.
“I’m just so excited to get back out there in front of Banditland,” he said. “They know that I’m going to feed off their energy and then give it right back.”
No better sequence that embodies why Fraser is a fan favorite was earlier in the season against the Toronto Rock in the 12-6 victory. After scoring his fourth goal, Fraser was a part of a full-line brawl that sent five players to the box.
With a bloody lip and all, Fraser entered the box and got up on the bench to hype up the crowd, sending Banditland into a frenzy.
“Everyone was hooting and hollering big smiles on their face, banging on the glass and having fun,” Fraser said. “At that moment I just thought it was right to give them some little attention back because it makes them happy, and it makes me happy too.”