September 08, 2017

Legends of Team Canada: Kevin Primeau

Kevin Primeau is one of the few hockey players from the Canadian university ranks to play in the National Hockey League.

From 1974 through 1978 Primeau played at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, leading the Golden Bears to two CIAU National championships. That's when he was not studying to earn his Bachelor's degree in Physical Education, of course.

That degree would very much come in handy, but first he had to give pro hockey a chance. In 1978 the Edmonton Oilers, then of the World Hockey Association, offered the local boy a try out. After a successful showing in practices they offered him a contract for the rest of the season. He would play in seven WHA games (picking up one assist) and two playoff games.

Primeau jumped at a lucrative offer from Switzerland to become playing coach for HC Davos. He was very interested in coaching as well as seeing the world, as will soon become quite evident.

Primeau left Davos after one season to split the next season between another Swiss club, Visp, and the Canadian National Team. 1980 was an Olympic year and Primeau successfully made the Olympic squad for the Lake Placid games. He played well with four goals in six Olympics games, but Canada fell short of a medal, finishing in sixth place.

Yet if you ask members of the 1980 team, they almost pulled off their own Miracle on Ice that year.

"We almost beat them (the Russians) the night before (the Americans did). One of their excuses for losing (to the U.S.A.) was that they were beat up from playing Canada. At those tournaments, anything can happen. We knew they were beatable. What our team lacked is goaltending and the Americans had it. That's what ended up winning it for them."

"We had played the Americans seven or eight times before the Olympics and had a pretty good record against them," said Primeau. "They only beat us a couple of times. We were the Canadian version of their team in terms of makeup."

Tom Watt was coaching Canada at the time. When he signed on to coach the Vancouver Canucks he convinced management to sign Primeau. Primeau would play most of the season on the Canucks farm team in Dallas but was called up for his only two NHL games.

Primeau headed back to Switzerland to play but a bad neck injury forced him off the ice for good in 1984. He soon stepped behind the bench, coaching everywhere from the CIAU to Switzerland to Germany to Hungary to Japan and back in the NHL - spending six years with the Oilers as an assistant coach in the 1990s.

No comments: