PHILADELPHIA (KDKA) — Certainly not having Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby was the biggest reason why the Penguins struggled.
Crosby never did get back.
While most fans don’t understand why it’s taking so long, KDKA’s Bob Pompeani sat down with a former player who knows exactly what Crosby is dealing with.
The name, Keith Primeau, has significance to Penguin fans. It was his goal in the fifth overtime of the conference semifinals in May of 2000 that allowed the Flyers to beat the Penguins in the longest overtime game in hockey history.
“It is one of my most memorable moments as a professional player,” Primeau said.
One of the worst moments also took place in Pittsburgh when defenseman Bob Boughner laid him out.
“I looked over my shoulder,” Primeau recalled. “By the time I turned, Bob had stepped up on me and it was … spent the night in a Pittsburgh hospital. I didn’t return to Philadelphia until the next day.”
Three days later, he played in Game 1 of the conference finals against New Jersey. Subsequently, Primeau suffered two more concussions – four documented – and in 2006, Primeau, at age 34 and $6 million left on a contract, was told he could never play hockey again.
He understands concussions better than most which is why KDKA’s Bob Pompeani flew to Philadelphia to get his take on Sidney Crosby.
BP: “When you hear people say, ‘Sidney Crosby should return because it’s the playoffs, because there’s a Stanley Cup to be won,’ what do you say?
KP: “Umm, ignorance. Ignorance in the sense that they don’t understand the severity of the injury. It’s not a broken bone. It’s not a fractured finger, it’s not a sprained ankle, it’s your brain. It’s the most important organ in your body. And for us to place more value on a game and the championship that results in that game over somebody’s life is very disheartening.”
Primeau says Crosby has reached out to him for advice during this ordeal.
“Sidney sent back some questions for me and I tried to answer them as openly and honestly as I could,” Primeau said. “And my message to him was, ‘Listen. You got to make sure that you’re 100 percent before returning to play.’ And I think he’s got enough common sense that he’ll heed if not my advice, the advice of others around him who are telling him the same thing.”
Primeau says he tried to make a comeback after his fourth and final concussion. It took him 10 months before he was back in the lineup and this is what he had to endure.
“Headaches and head pressure. That I was sitting in my office one day and I just completely broke down because it was so frustrating,” he said. “At that point, two years removed from my last concussion that I wondered, ‘Am I ever going to feel okay?’ And that thought scared me and saddened me.”
And now five years removed from the game, he still has recurring symptoms which made him make a decision recently to donate his brain to science upon his death which he expects sooner rather than later.
BP: “What about you when you look down the road and think about your future. What fears do you have moving forward?”
KP: “My greatest fear is that if and when I begin to show signs and symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s or any neuro-cognitive illness, that my demise is rapid. I don’t live in the fear of, ‘What if?’ I don’t live in the fear of dying. What I do fear is when it does happen, how quick it will happen.”