Philadelphia Daily News Ed Moran column: Primeau is loving his new life in hockey

Ed Moran

Mar. 12, 2007--ANYONE WHO HAS has been to a Bishop Eustace Prep hockey game is familiar with head coach Mike Green and his "special assistant," Keith Primeau.

What's striking is the difference in size. Green isn't the shortest guy on the planet, and while Primeau isn't the tallest, he still stands a head above Green, and that's with Green standing on the bench and Primeau on the floor.

Well, maybe that's stretching the truth a little, but just a little.

But where the two men differ in height, they are equals in what they bring to the game. Green never played at the level Primeau did, but he played minor hockey in New Jersey and attended a New England prep school.His older brother, Mark, played junior hockey in Canada.

Any fan of hockey knows what Primeau, a two-time All-Star, brought to the Flyers before repeated concussions forced him out of the pros.

I'm careful not to say out of the game because where Primeau has ended up is a good place for him. He is close to his roots in

minor hockey, and he coaches his son Corey in his senior year.

More important, he has found a way to stay involved in his life's passion.

"I'm at a tournament right now," he said via telephone yesterday. "And I am really pumped."

It's so good to hear the enthusiasm in his voice again.

Like Primeau, Green exudes a passion for hockey just as he does for soccer. He also coaches Haddon Township's boys' team. He's a skilled coach, but what makes him special is he cares.

And so does Primeau.

When Primeau left the Flyers, he teamed with Green and his life became consumed again with hockey and the passion that made him a dominant force in the NHL.

The result of this is a complete immersion for Primeau in local minor hockey, and, with Green, he is now on a mission to make New Jersey a place where special players are developed.

That's not to say it hasn't happened before. Bobby Ryan, the 2005 second pick overall behind Sidney Crosby, is from Cherry Hill. Bobby Sanguinetti, 21st overall in 2006 by the Rangers, is from Lumberton.

Both left the area to play junior hockey in Canada. While they are exceptions, there are a lot of quality players who have come from or now live in the Philadelphia-South Jersey area.

But the feeling here is that the hockey isn't competitive enough to draw attention from college or professional scouts. Kids have to leave home for either a junior team or a prep school in New England or in the Midwest.

Primeau wouldn't necessarily argue that; neither would Green. But they want to change that perception, and want to reward players who stay behind and play for their local club and high school teams.

So they have started their own senior all-star game, and have called in a few dozen chips to pack the rink with scouts. The Flyers will be there, Canadian junior scouts will be there, and college scouts will be there.  They're calling it the New Jersey Scholastic All-Star Senior Game, and it will be held at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Vineland Ice Arena, which Primeau hopes will be packed with spectators.

"This is my new project," said Primeau, who also runs a hockey school and a Tier Two junior team in Canada. "The motivation for both of us was, we've seen so many of the good players in the state leave to play junior or go off to a college prep school because they're being told this is what they have to do, but we're trying to show them there is an alternative.

"We want to keep these kids here and help build hockey in and around the state of New Jersey. We want to change the impression of high school hockey around here being the second-class citizen.

"We want to put ourselves on the map as a region so that we can keep and develop these players and put them in a situation where they can be rewarded for staying here and get the exposure they need to take the next step."