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March 5, 2006 - Primeau doing it for team

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Primeau doing it for team


Some guys would have been content to stay home and wait it out.

But that's not the nature of Keith Primeau.

Which explains why he's decided to serve as an unofficial assistant coach with the Flyers for the rest of the season.

Post-concussion symptoms might keep him from playing again. His future in hockey looks hazy. There's no way to predict how much, if any, impact he will have on the Flyers' fortunes in his new role down the stretch and into the playoffs.

This much we know: It says a lot about the man when he wants to stay involved in the game and do what he can to help his teammates.

So Primeau will watch games from the press box level, catch an elevator during intermissions and report what he finds to the players.

"Yeah, we're getting him fitted for his earpiece, he already has the walkie-talkie,'' cracked Mike Knuble, kidding that Primeau was now part of management.

When Primeau announced on Monday that doctors wouldn't clear him to play, he voiced determination that he would continue to pursue whatever avenues he could to remain active and in the game.

"It's a good way for him to stay involved,'' Knuble said.

"He's in a different position in that he's still a player and not a coach. Emotionally, maybe he looks at things from a player's perspective different than a coach.''

The situation was a little more complex than just Primeau walking in and starting a new assignment.

He had to make sure head coach Ken Hitchcock wanted his services and that the experiment had the blessing of general manager Bob Clarke.

"Hitch wanted somebody he trusted, who's responsible,'' Clarke explained. "Just because you get injured doesn't mean you aren't part of the team. You don't throw a guy on the side of the road after he's gotten hurt playin' for you. He's still part of the team and if he can help, he will.''

At 34, Primeau is at a stage of his career where he would start to think about his post-player years anyway.

Maybe even contemplate coaching someday.

"As we all get older we look for transitions, find out if we like that side of the game, too,'' Knuble said. "But it's good, it will keep him busy, keep his mind off what is wrong with him. It gives him something to do everyday.''

Maybe it won't hurt to hear another voice either.

"He's not going to sugar-coat anything, he's not going to worry about anyone's feelings,'' Knuble said. "I guess that means he calls them as he sees them. That's probably why he's the captain here. He has to tell guys things they don't want to hear at times.

"It's not always easy when you're a friend and a teammate. You want to be constructive. But at certain times, in any business, you have to hear what you don't want to hear. Especially in pro sports.''

Knuble said Primeau's word will be respected.

"I guess we'll see that if he comes out of the press box and has something to say. I think he should feel he can do that if he wants to. He's still a huge part of the team. We still respect his opinion, what he has to say about things.''

Hitchcock welcomes that new voice. Primeau gives him "an eye in the sky,'' something he hasn't had since Terry Murray left that position to fill the vacancy left by the departure of Craig Hartsburg to coach junior hockey.

"Keith, when he feels good, is just going to come to the games, he's just going to observe the team's play, take notes and hopefully give us some insight, kind of like a player-coach who isn't playing,'' Hitchcock said.

Another opinion certainly can't hurt.