Younger Primeau knows Eli's pain

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

EDMONTON -- When Eli Manning tossed that final touchdown to win the Super Bowl for the New York Giants Sunday, he took a big step out of his big brother Peyton's shadow.

Calgary Flames centre Wayne Primeau knows a thing or two about second billing.

His older brother, Keith -- 41/2 years his senior -- had begun to carve out a successful career in the NHL before Wayne followed his sibling's footsteps into professional hockey.

So, you can bet the younger Primeau was smiling Sunday.

"I was happy to see it. There's some guys that don't like (Eli), but ... being a brother, having a brother and being the younger one, it's good to see the younger one having some success," he said yesterday as his Flames prepared to face the Edmonton Oilers. While Eli Manning was forced to play centre during family football games, Primeau had it even tougher growing up when his brother came back home for the summer and needed some target practice.

Eli might have been a bit bored, but Primeau was a little bruised.

"Oh yeah, I was goalie. Summer hockey," said Primeau with a laugh.

"Come summertime when they come back and shoot balls, the young guy goes in net. Him and his buddies would shoot the balls at me."

The rough stuff didn't end there. Despite a substantial size difference between him and his big brother, Primeau shared a competitive nature that led to some wrestling matches Wayne calls "tough love."

"There were times when we'd get in fights and stuff," he said. "I'd be at the point where I'm like, 'That's it, let's go.' We'd go outside and he'd have me on the ground and bang my head against the ground a few times."

Tangling in the NHL is something that Primeau never believed would happen. It was a running joke in the locker-room any time the brothers played each other. Eventually, though, circumstances led to the anticipated clash.

"It's kind of weird that it happened," said Primeau, who dropped the gloves with Keith on April 7, 1997 when his Sabres visited the Hartford Whalers.

"Guys on the team, when I was in Buffalo, would be like, 'Are you gonna fight your brother?'

"It was kind of getting annoying after a while."

But after Wayne exchanged punches with Whalers goaltender Sean Burke, the tussle was inevitable.

"Next thing I know, my brother's on top of me because he was the closest guy to stick up for his goalie," said Primeau.

The two grappled for a minute or two, then the Hartford crowd began chanting Primeau's name -- for Keith.

"He just said, 'What do you want to do?' I said, 'I don't care,' recalled Wayne.

"He was throwing punches. You could tell he was holding back, but he was still hitting me in the head. It wasn't full through with the punch, but I was getting a little bit pissed off. I went to throw an uppercut and it just missed."

That's when the heftier Keith decided things were getting too serious and wrestled Wayne to the ice.

The elder sibling called home between periods to talk to their parents, who were watching on TV in Toronto.

"My dad was laughing, my mom wasn't too happy in the background," said Wayne. "My dad's demeanour changed. He said, 'We know you guys are both competitive people, but at the same time, we just don't want to see that happen again.' "

It never did.

Unlike the Mannings, neither Primeau has yet won a championship. Keith never will, thanks to a series of concussions that ended his career in 2005. Wayne hopes he can one day hold that edge in the sibling rivalry.

"That'd be great, for us to win a Cup," he said, noting Keith has a decided edge in NHL numbers. "I could hold that against him, I guess."


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