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Former National Hockey League player serving as ambassador at Little NHL

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Dan Frawley participated in the ceremonial puck drop for a game on Sunday, March 12, at the Little NHL tournament, which included the NHL Indigenous alumni squad, in Mississauga, Ont. – Photo courtesy of Sara Cornthwaite

By Sam Laskaris

MISSISSAUGA – Some of Dan Frawley’s memories of playing in the Little Native Hockey League tournament are a bit hazy, but Frawley, a Nipissing First Nation member who is serving as an ambassador this year for the tourney, more frequently called the Little NHL, is confident participants of the 2023 event will also have life-long memories.

“It’s the biggest part I remember about being a kid,” said Frawley, who went on to play a total of 274 games in the National Hockey League. “I can’t remember the games, but I remember meeting and seeing my cousins and people that I didn’t know – making new friends from other teams.”

Though it is being held at various arenas throughout Mississauga, Frawley’s First Nation is hosting this year’s tournament, which has attracted 184 Indigenous youth clubs from across the province.

Opening ceremonies for this year’s tournament were held Sunday at the Paramount Centre in Mississauga. Games commenced on Monday morning and continue until Thursday.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this marks the first time since 2019 that the Little NHL has been held.

“To start off, you feel bad for the kids that missed it,” Frawley said. “But with it starting up again, and for the kids that are getting a chance, maybe it’s their last year, but for everybody, the memories, the get-togethers with people you haven’t seen for a long time, that’s the best part about the whole tournament.”

Frawley, who is 60, is unsure just how many times he competed in the Little NHL during his youth.

“I’ll bet you I played maybe in five in six [tournaments],” he said.

Frawley, however, was uncertain if he had ever been a member of a Little NHL championship squad as a player; years later, Frawley was reminded of a championship he didn’t win.

“I know I met someone from Garden River when we were up there for an alumni game,” he said. “He said, ‘Dan, I remember you. We won (the Little NHL) because you couldn’t play that last game.’ Back then, the tournaments were played on the weekend. So, your travel team, which I was playing on, would be at a tournament the same weekend. It was always a battle, which one I’d go play.”

In later years, Frawley coached his three sons for clubs they played on during the Little NHL.

“I coached all their teams throughout the years,” he said. “And we won a couple.”

Frawley now lives in Brinston, Ont., a village located about an hour’s drive south of Ottawa. He was thrilled he was brought in as an ambassador for this year’s tournament.

“What I like doing is going in to introduce myself to the older teams and telling them about myself,” he said.

Frawley had a 14-season pro playing career. He suited up for the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins during his NHL stints.

Frawley was also one of eight former pro players featured in Upper Deck’s First Peoples Rookie Cards set. The cards included Indigenous players who played in the NHL but never had a rookie card made.

Frawley also participated in a game on Sunday that included members of the Indigenous NHL alumni squad as well as some participants from this year’s tournament.

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