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March 15, 2005 - Primeau expresses interest

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WHA tourney grows
Primeau expresses interest
By TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

Bobby Hull, a large part of the original WHA, now has a tournament named after him later this May, to jump-start the league in the absence of NHL playoff hockey. (Toronto Sun File/Craig Robertson)

Keith Primeau misses the physical abuse he normally would be enduring right now in his night job.

But for a little while at least, the big Philadelphia Flyers centre figures on getting knocked around a bit, and the Whitby native is looking forward to it.

Primeau is one of 50-plus NHL players who apparently have agreed to play in the WHA's six-team tournament, the Bobby Hull Invitational in late May and early June.

"I've played in several charity games but the competition level has not been the same," Primeau said. "I'm just excited about getting on the ice again."

WHA president/owner Ricky Smith confirmed yesterday each player will be paid $20,000 US and that a $2-million prize will be awarded to the winning team. Players listed on the WHA website yesterday as participating in the tournament ranged from stars such as Jarome Iginla and Dany Heatley to journeymen such as Jim Cummins and Jeremy Stevenson. Smith said there are going to be some Maple Leafs involved, but none were listed.

Games, scheduled to begin May 20, will be played in Vancouver and Hamilton. The tournament is slated to end on June 2. Smith is negotiating to have games played at the Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto as well. Smith said he is talking to "three major insurance companies" to get coverage for those players who won't already have it.

Smith said the tournament essentially would be used as a jumping off point for the return of the WHA next season.

"That's exactly what it is," Smith said. "It's to help lay the bricks for the 2005-06 season. We've had 200 players who have shown an interest in the tournament."

Among the rules for the tournament will be no red line, no icing during penalties and using tag-up offside.

As far as actually getting a league on ice next season, Smith said he and his partners are considering a number of cities, including Seattle-Tacoma, Portland, Vancouver, Quebec City, Greensboro, N.C., Dallas, Las Vegas, Omaha and Hamilton. Toronto would not be involved, Smith said, because the Ricoh Coliseum will be home to the Maple Leafs' American Hockey League affiliate next season.

If the tournament is successful, Primeau would seriously consider playing in the WHA if it gets off the ground and if the NHL lockout continues.

"It would interest me because I have no intention of going to Europe," Primeau, 33, said. "If there is any chance of playing somewhere on this continent, I'm interested."