(February 5) - Former Philadelphia Flyers captain Keith Primeau took part in a conference call with the local media on Monday regarding his being honored by the club prior to the game on Monday, February 12 against the Detroit Red Wings. Below is a transcript of the conference call.
How do you feel about this tribute, your decision and everything that has gone on since? Primeau: "It's definitely mixed emotions. I am extremely honored and humbled. I [would] prefer to be still playing, but as I explained before, I think I started to come to the realization last summer and still know that I have made the right decision. To be honored this early following the conclusion following my career is exciting."
There has been a lot of speculation as to which hit did the most damage to you. Do you think about that at all? Primeau: "I try to not trivialize it, I kind of look at it in a more broad sense. When I have tried to analyze it my own personal theory is that it's cumulative, it's not one specific hit more than the others. I think it has as much to do with body-to-body contact, as direct blow to the head. I think over several years of wear and tear, playing physical ultimately led to my current condition. But if there was one specific hit I keep going back to the night in Pittsburgh, Game Six (Eastern Conference Semifinals, 1999-2000 season) of that series where I was laid out at center ice by Bob Boughner. At that point in time I should have made a wiser decision and stayed off and not played, and I played through the next round versus New Jersey."
When you think back on your career, what are your highlights? Primeau: "That's funny because I was just talking to my father about this the other day being recognized back in my home town of Whitby (Ontario) at the end of April as well and being inducted into the local sports hall of fame and I was putting a little biography together. Although I didn't win a Stanley Cup Championship I am really proud of my career accomplishments, and those include a Calder Cup Championship in 1991 with Adirondack; a 1997 World Championship with Team Canada; my appearance in the 1998 Olympics in Nagano; a couple All-Star appearances; a Stanley Cup Finals appearance; three Semifinal appearances, so there is a lot to be proud of and I take a tremendous amount of pride in that."
Is must be tough to watch the Flyers this year. Does that change your thoughts at all about your decision to retire? Primeau: "I really struggled with it last year and because I felt that was probably the greatest area I could contribute, with the number of young players we had. I felt it was important to be there not only on ice but off ice. As a young player there is a huge adjustment that you just can't do solely on your own. I really feel I missed out on contributing to the young players in that regard.
"I remember several times going into Hitch's office and telling him I wanted to go into the room and voice my opinion or express situations and he just explained to me flat out that I couldn't, that I needed to let them stumble on their own and allow them to find their identity if I wasn't going to be able to make it back to the locker room. So that is kind of the approach I have taken this year too. As much as I wish I could be there it doesn't mean that they would be any better or any different. I know that they need to find solutions or fix whatever is affecting them right now on their own."
Did the Flyers ever come to you and offer any position with the team? Primeau: "No. There have been a couple of times where I have been asked for my opinion on certain issues and situations and I appreciate they have thought of me at those points in time, but at the same time there has been no offer. I was never really soliciting any."
Do you find it increasingly hard or a little bit easier as the days go by to not be associated with the game? Primeau: "I struggled a lot more with it last year because I kept waiting to get better, waiting to turn the corner and get myself back in the lineup and find a way to contribute and trying to keep myself in fit physical condition and a mental state, where if I got better, I was ready. That was really tiring and really draining, and not getting better was really frustrating. This year it really stems from my summer and not being able to work out the way I have in the past or I normally would. I just came to the realization I wasn't going to be able to do this and so I am at peace with it.
How do you feel now? Primeau: "I still have problems. The most severe symptoms are the head pressure and the headaches. Flying continues to be a problem for me. I have flown home to Toronto a few times with little effect but every time I take a longer flight, for example I have been to the West Coast a time or two, and that has really put me on my heels."
How has it been for you to watch the team and everything it has gone through this year? Primeau: "The way I have personally approached it, I always felt was such a storied franchise and great tradition in the Philadelphia Flyers' past. I was always there trying to carry the torch for the players who played before me as well. I know these guys feel the same way. Not only are they playing for themselves but those who have worn the sweater before. When things don't go well and you are letting down the organization, it's doesn't make for a quick winter, that's for sure."
You made the impression that your symptoms would dissipate and your long-term outlook would be good. What have the doctors told you? Primeau: "The way it was explained to me was, as much as I have done from a medical standpoint and rehabilitative standpoint, the best medication is time. I can say that I am feeling better with time. Time has definitely made a difference, not to the point where I don't notice or don't recognize my symptoms at some point during the day, but I am functional and that was part of the biggest battle before.
"As far as long-term outlook, Dr. [Gary] Dorshimer told me that you should feel better, you never know how long it takes and it may not but it's not something you need to worry about. Just let it be, and recognize it is there and move on with your day and that is what I try and do. When I spend time thinking about it that is when it seems to be worse so I try not to dwell on it. The other thing is when my immunity is down or I am not feeling well it goes right to my head and that is when I definitely notice it the most."
If you continue to improve would you think about getting back into the game down the road, as a coach or something like that? Primeau: "I am coaching two of my boys this winter, one helping with the high school hockey team the other one an entry level mites, six, seven, eight year-olds so it's two really different experiences and I am finding that I have a real passion for it. I enjoy going to the rink. But right now that suits me fine, there is so much to learn. You are behind the bench as opposed to being in front of the bench and I am just king of taking it all in right now."
Do you enjoy the TV stuff? Primeau: "It's an opportunity, it's an experience. I appreciate the chance, I don't aspire to be a broadcaster but it keeps me involved and it keeps me around and for me right now that is more important then any long-term vision with the TV thing."
Has that been tricky giving your opinion on the team that you played for and is now struggling? Primeau: "It's really hard because as a player and as a vocal kind of person in the locker room I really never tried to sugarcoat anything. I always thought it was important to call it the way I saw it and that sometimes got me in hot water, but this seat is a little different and the hot water might burn me. Sometimes in trying to make the politically correct statement it may not be the stance I would take if I were on the other side, but in those situations I had the ability to alter the course of what was happening or the landscape. In this situation I don't, I 'd just be shooting my mouth off."
Talk a little bit about the high school coaching. What is it like being on the bench, how do the kids and parents react to you? Primeau: "I think the parents really recognize the situation a lot more then the kids do and I think they appreciate that I am putting in so much time. The kids I think they respect the fact that I am there as well. I helped there with the hockey team two years ago during the lockout so a lot of them have seen me around before and they go to school with my oldest one so it's not really the novelty so much with this group as it would be maybe with a group that has not seen me before."