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November 25, 2005 - Primeau shows thanks

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Primeau shows thanks

For most of the Flyers, Thanksgiving is just another day.

Of the current team, only three Flyers are American-born, the rest are either Canadian or European.

It has been that way for Keith Primeau for most of his adult life. Even though he married an American woman and his children were born in the United States, American holidays were just that for the Toronto native - American holidays. Not anymore.

Three weeks ago, Primeau became a naturalized citizen of the United States and yesterday celebrated his first Thanksgiving as an American.

"It will be different for me," Primeau said, "because now we're all American. We celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving and the kids know my heritage and my background and have duel citizenships, but this means just as much to me as it does to them to be Canadian.

"I've been in the U.S. a long time and it's been great to me. It's where my family is and I feel heartfelt gratitude. To me, this is an honor. I'm proud to be American."

Primeau was at the Flyers' practice facility in Voorhees, N.J., yesterday morning. While the rest of the players were getting in a skate in preparation for today's game in Boston against the Bruins, Primeau was getting a light workout.

He still is experiencing concussion symptoms and will continue to be out of the lineup indefinitely, though he says the symptoms are starting to abate some. It's frustrating for the Flyers' captain to be away for so long but he spent time yesterday with his teammates and talking about his new holiday.

The idea to gain American citizenship was not something Primeau just decided to do. He has spent more time in the United States than in Canada since beginning his professional hockey career.

"I've been in the U.S. since I was 18 years old," Primeau said. He started the naturalization process 9 years ago when he was still playing in Detroit.

He obtained his green card 5 years ago and was ready to take the oath in 2001, until the Sept. 11 terror attacks. "I was going to do it just before 9/11, but then I figured that it was going to take some time so I waited another year and I started the process again about 18 months ago." he said.

Primeau said he began taking classes and attending meetings at the U.S. immigration offices in Cherry Hill. He expected to stand in a group with other new Americans on the day he took his oath. "I used to go over there and see these groups of people all standing around waiting and holding little American flags," he said.

But the day he was scheduled to take the oath, he had to reschedule because the Flyers had a game. At the time, he wasn't injured and was playing.

"I kept going to meetings and 3 weeks ago I was leaving and [his wife Lisa] said, 'You know they're going to swear you in.' I didn't think so. So she didn't come with me.

"Then when I got there, they told me they were going to swear me in and gave me 15 minutes notice. I called Lisa. She thought I was kidding. I told her I wasn't...

"Turns out I waited 45 minutes and she could have made it over. But I took the oath by myself. It was very emotional for me."