Primeau speaks from heart and head

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

TORONTO - As Keith Primeau spoke to the group of wide-eyed kids in the Ontario town of Warkworth on Saturday afternoon, his mind probably drifted temporarily to his 13-year-old son Chayse.

Back in October, young Chayse suffered his first concussion during a hockey game. Luckily, it appeared as if the boy was recovering quickly.

At least that’s what his parents figured. They were wrong.

“He was held out of hockey and held out of school,” Primeau recalled Saturday. “But when he was at home bouncing off the walls, he seemed normal again. We thought to ourselves: ‘Why are we keeping him out of school?’”

When it comes to concussions, looks can be deceiving. When the results of Chayse’s baseline test came back, it showed he had failed miserably.

“It was very eye-opening for me, that’s for sure,” Primeau said. Another valuable lesson learned in Keith Primeau’s quest to become more educated about concussions.

No one understands the damaging effects such a condition can have on a person more than Primeau, the former Philadelphia Flyers captain who was forced to retire from the game because of concussion-related issues.

To this day, the symptoms linger. There are spurts of dizziness and headaches. Sometimes his neck becomes stiff. For Primeau, it is a battle he fights almost every day. A battle he is attempting to help young hockey players avoid.

Joining his brother, Wayne, and former European hockey icon Kerry Goulet, Keith Primeau was in Warkworth Saturday speaking to more than 200 young hockey players on the best ways to protect yourself from getting your marbles scrambled out on the ice.

It was part of the “Play It Cool” movement, a program designed by Goulet, Primeau and Dr. William Montelpare of Lakehead University designed to educate coaches, players, parents and officials on the causes and effects of concussions in sports.

The issue obviously has become the hottest topic in hockey, especially with the concussions woes that have kept the game’s top player, Sidney Crosby, from competing for much of this calendar year.

The debate intensified several days ago when the Maple Leafs’ Mikhail Grabovski, having been wallpapered by the Boston Bruins’ Zdeno Chara for a second time in their game, wobbled back to the bench in an obvious dazed and confused state only to return without missing a shift.

“I saw it,” Primeau said. “I was startled that they sent him back in after the first hit. I was shocked that he came back after the second hit. “A day later, the team defended their actions, saying they had done nothing wrong and that the player himself had declared himself fit to go. They weren’t necessarily wrong either. They assessed him.”

That’s the trouble with the concussion issue, Primeau said. It is difficult to come up with a “black and white” solution to protect players.

“This is a transition area,” he said. “There is a lot of gray here. At the same time, first, we need to err on the side of caution. Secondly we have to find a way to take the responsibility and safety monitoring away from the team and the player.”

Easier said than done.

On this gusty, cold afternoon, at least the kids and parents in Warkworth appear to be getting the message about precautions and preventions, whether it be not putting yourself in a vulnerable position on the ice or showing respect for your fellow player by avoiding damaging hits when an opponent cannot protect himself.

When the subject of Grabovski came up, one person in the crowd pointed out to Primeau that the “new sense of courage” in the sport would have been to stand up and say: “No, I’m not playing.”

Keith and Chayse Primeau could not have said it any better.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/zeisberger


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