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February 8, 2006 - Ed Moran | TRYING HIS OWN SPIN CONTROL

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My Keith Primeau Page


KEITH PRIMEAU was in his car yesterday morning, ordering a takeout breakfast from a Tim Hortons in Toronto.

He was having his usual, a large coffee and a raisin-bran muffin. It's not exactly health food, or so most healthy eaters would suggest - at least not for an elite athlete, which is what Primeau has been all his life.

If Flyers trainer Jim McCrossin were there, he would probably be going over all the reasons why Primeau shouldn't be eating muffins and drinking a large coffee - saturated fat, caffeine, stuff that usually comes under the not-exactly-good-for-you column.

"No way," Primeau said at the suggestion he eat something else. "The bran muffin keeps you regular."

It was a regular, everyday thought and was said in the way someone having a regular, everyday morning would say it.

But, these are not regular, everyday mornings anymore, not for Primeau. While his Flyers teammates are mired in an injury-laden funk that has seen them fall from a team with high expectations to a befuddled one without direction, the 34-year-old Primeau was in Toronto yesterday seeing a chiropractor, trying for one last grasp at his season, and maybe his career.

"I'm trying to pull a rabbit out of my hat," is the way he put it.  It's basically the magic act Primeau has been trying to pull off since Oct. 25, the night he was leveled by an elbow from Montreal's Alexander Perezhogin and his world was sent, literally, into a tailspin.

It was another concussion, one in a long line of concussions, and there has not been a day since in which he has not been either dizzy, had a headache, had the spins, or all of the above.

Nothing about this season has gone the way Primeau envisioned it would. Everything that has happened has been out of his control, even the way he planned to announce the decision the Flyers said they wanted by the end of the Olympic break, the one where he would say he was either coming back or done for the year.

Primeau wanted to make sure he had tried everything and then call a few friends and some of the reporters who have been covering him since he came to Philadelphia in 2000.

He wanted to call them in, explain what he had decided, where he was headed, and then hold a press conference to make the decision public.

But it all got out over the weekend and Primeau was prematurely thrust back into the top of the news.

"This didn't unfold the way I had hoped," he said.

None of it has. Since being injured, Primeau has been under the watchful eye of McCrossin, the team doctors, and a stable of concussion specialists, trying to find a way to stop the spinning so he can play again.

There is very little chance that will happen. No chance is probably more accurate.

Last week, Primeau was told by the team's medical staff that he will not be cleared to play this season. His progress has been slow, regardless of how much better or worse he is feeling on any given day.

There is simply not enough time for Primeau this season. He was told that in a meeting with McCrossin and general manager Bob Clarke. His response was to refuse to accept it.

And that's understandable, even if what he was told makes the most sense.

So Primeau called his father, and after talking with him about a noted Canadian chiropractor - whose name Primeau wants to keep out of this - the Flyers' center and erstwhile captain flew home.

He was seen by the chiropractor yesterday and has another appointment today.

He is hoping for a rabbit, but knows the reality. The hat is most likely empty.

"I'm not sure if this will work," Primeau said. "They examined me [yesterday] and said they found damage in my neck and cervix that they think is from past traumas. Whether or not this clears up the spinning, we'll see.

"I hope it works, but it's been a long time since I've felt good so I don't have a lot of confidence. The [doctor] is brilliant and he was very confident about what he was doing and how he was treating me. He said my face immediately had more color in it after the first treatment."

Even if this chiropractor says he has found a miracle cure, Primeau has to reverse the decision of the Flyers' medical team.

Everyone wants him back, but no one wants him back at the expense of his overall health.

That goes for team chairman Ed Snider, who already is distressed about the season's direction.

"I've never seen anything like this in all my years in sports," team chairman Ed Snider said yesterday. "Of course I want [Primeau] back. I would love to have him back. But not at the expense of his health.

"I feel that he should come back if he's 100 percent healthy, no question, and if he's not, he shouldn't. His whole life is at stake here. I care about him, the person. If Keith woke up tomorrow morning and he felt great all the way through the Olympics, I don't know why we wouldn't want him to come back. I called Keith and told him that... I talked to him about how I felt about him."

Primeau said he appreciated the phone call. Even if it was not exactly what he wanted to hear.

This is no easy decision for Primeau. He has had a long and stellar career, but there has been no Stanley Cup and that eats at him. So he's trying one more thing before calling that press conference sometime by the end of this week or early next.

"I guess I'm just postponing this as long as I can, and holding out hope," Primeau said. "But I don't know. I continue to procrastinate. But this [treatment in Toronto] will be the determining factor. When I leave here, I'll know.

"And then my focus will shift to next season. It's been explained to me that after this, my focus shifts from month-to-month instead of day-to-day, and doing the things that will allow me to try to play next season."