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October 10, 2004 - Many have time to kill

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Many have time to kill

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Courier-Post Staff

It hasn't even been a month without hockey, and already Lisa Primeau has seen enough of her husband.

"She already wants to kick me out of the house," Flyers captain Keith Primeau said. "She's used to me being gone and her getting the kids to school. She's asking me when our next road trip is coming."

It's that way all over hockey as players and coaches adjust to the NHL lockout.

"I was joking with one of the players," Flyers equipment manager Jim Evers said, "that the divorce rate is going to go way up during this lockout."

On an average day, Evers sits in his office at the Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees with his feet up on his desk, watching morning talk shows on television. Assistant equipment manager Mike Craytor has been moved down the hall, where he does laundry for the Phantoms, thankful he's still collecting a paycheck.

"We appreciate the Flyers' loyalty," said Evers, who has spent 21 years with the organization. "I was always there for them, and now they're there for me."

Most of the Flyers' staff has been retained during the lockout, but they've been left with little to do. Coach Ken Hitchcock told assistants Craig Hartsburg, Wayne Fleming and Terry Murray to go home and wait for further instructions.

Hitchcock has watched the Phantoms practice every day but has been mindful of staying out of the way of head coach John Stevens. To fill the coaching void Hitchcock, who lives in Medford, has volunteered to help the Shawnee High School club ice hockey team. He's also assisted some of his former players, who are now coaching at the minor, college and junior levels.
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"I miss the competition of the games, but I mostly miss the teaching associated with practices," Hitchcock said.

It will be a few weeks before the players start missing their paychecks. NHL players are paid 13 times during the six-month regular season, averaging one paycheck every two weeks.

For Primeau, who signed a contract that would pay him $4.5 million this season, that means he won't be seeing his $345,153.84 checks every two weeks.

Nearly 200 of the NHL's 700 players are playing in other professional leagues, including several Flyers. A handful of Flyers and former Flyers, including Primeau, John LeClair and Sami Kapanen, have rented out ice at the Medford Ice Arena on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

One reason is to keep themselves in shape. Another is to get themselves out of the house.

Dr. Joel Fish, the Flyers' team psychologist the past seven years, said it is common for players to feel "a sense of loss" when the profession they love is taken away from them.

"Going to work is good for a person's self-esteem," Fish said.

Primeau, who has three sons and a daughter, has tried to fit into his family's daily routine of school, soccer, hockey, dance and religious classes. That, in itself, has been a challenge.

"The boys are upset I'm not working, asking why I'm not at the rink," he said. "But my daughter is different. She's ecstatic I'll be home for her birthday."