Bades of Glory
BY CHRISTINA PELLEGRINI
If Keith Primeau is smiling, he must be about to check someone.
Flyers fans will never forget the moment that center Keith Primeau scored the winning goal in quintuple overtime during the 2000 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the in-state rival Pittsburgh Penguins. But it is likely very few of them can imagine a very young version of the 6-foot-5 enforcer taking figure-skating lessons in Toronto, Ontario, dressed in costume for the annual Christmas show.
“Figure skating wasn’t really for me,” he says regarding his first baby steps onto the ice.
Primeau gravitated toward hockey when he started playing organized games at the age of five. Miraculously, he never really had to re-learn how to skate when decked out in all those pads. “I remember the first time I stepped on the ice with equipment on, I expected to be all uncomfortable and fall,” Primeau recalls. “I got on the ice, and I was fine. I took right off. There was never really any awkward moment. When I first started skating or playing, I just knew I really liked it.”
From then on, Primeau pursued the sport with vigor, honing his goalscoring skills with one of his favorite pastimes—pond hockey. At seven years old, Primeau would take to the frozen pond in the schoolyard, where he and his schoolmates would challenge each other to a game much like a three-on-three version of open hockey, playing until the streetlights came on at the end of those short, frigid winter days. “We just had our sticks and skates and gloves—an extra pair of gloves on underneath our hockey gloves, trying to find ways to stay warm. Those are fond memories,” Primeau remembers.
Since retiring from the NHL in 2006, Primeau still finds ways to relive those earliest memories on the ice by coaching his three sons: Corey, 23; Chayse, 14; and Cayden, 12 (he also has a 16-yearold daughter, Kylie). Running a three-on-three league in Pennsauken, New Jersey, in the spring; the Durham Hockey Institute, a children’s hockey clinic, with brother and NHL player Wayne Primeau in the summer; and coaching Team Comcast, part of the Atlantic Youth Hockey League, in the regular season, Primeau remains focused on the sport year-round. While his eldest son was at Bishop Eustace Preparatory School in Pennsauken from 2002 to 2006, Primeau taught the ice hockey team there. “It’s been really gratifying,” Primeau says of his coaching efforts. “I get an extreme joy out of seeing the progression of not only my boys, but of all the kids in the league.”
Besides spending plenty of time at Pennsauken’s Flyers Skate Zone, home base for Chayse and Cayden’s Team Comcast, Primeau and his family still make time to explore the ice at other skating haunts as well. They visit New York City’s Rockefeller Center in the wintertime, as well as Rizzo Rink on South Front Street. As for the Blue Cross RiverRink, that’s still on the busy dad’s bucket list. “I’m always fascinated by some of the inner-city rinks, you know, like RiverRink, being underneath the overpass, and how much use and how excited people are about getting out there to hit the ice.”