Keith Primeau

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Sports Uncovered: Brian Boucher on playing goal during the ‘Marathon on Ice’

What’s it like to be a goaltender in the middle of a game that needs five overtimes to be decided?

Sweaty. Very sweaty.

That was Brian Boucher’s experience during Game 4 of the 2000 Eastern Conference semifinal between the Flyers the Penguins. He played all 151:48 that night, stopping 57 of 58 shots during Philadelphia’s 2-1 win. After Keith Primeau’s goal, the scene back in the dressing room was a messy one.

“When that game ended I took my skates off, I poured sweat out of them,” Boucher told NBC Sports. “I was drenched. I don’t know how much weight I lost that game.”

The story of Game 4 is the subject of the latest episode of NBC Sports Regional Network’s podcast series, Sports Uncovered.

“Marathon on Ice” was released Thursday and features Boucher, Chris Therien, Keith Jones, Ron Tugnutt, and Bob Boughner.

Sports Uncovered is on all podcast platforms: click here to subscribe now!

The Flyers entered Game 4 down 2-1 in the series. They almost faced a 3-0 deficit if not for Andy Delmore’s overtime goal in Game 3. That gave them confidence heading into a crucial game.

“I don’t think we could have ever prepared for what was to come in Game 4,” Boucher said.

But any sense of momentum on the Flyers’ side quickly dissipated after Alexei Kovalev’s goal 2:22 into the game. The Penguins were ahead until early in the third period when John LeClair tied it, setting the stage for a long night. And we wouldn’t be talking about this game 20 years later if Daymond Langkow’s shot 30 seconds into the first overtime had gone in and not hit the post.

No pressure for Boucher

For Boucher, he was a rookie who took over the No. 1 job from John Vanbiesbrouck during an eventful season. The 1999-2000 campaign was one that featured Eric Lindros’ issues with concussions and Bobby Clarke; head coach Roger Neilson stepping away following a cancer diagnosis; and the franchise reeling from the deaths of broadcaster Gene Hart and defenseman Dmitri Tertyshny.

Now he was in the middle of a crucial moment in the Flyers’ season. A loss would create a mountain to climb. A win could help push them towards a series comeback. Facing what he was, Boucher didn’t feel any nerves as the overtime periods went on.

“I think you just get focused and you get in a zone,” he said. “I felt like as that game went on the game seemed to slow down and it probably did because guys were tired, and I think the quality of the game wasn’t there. Having it be a situation where next goal wins, there is pressure. I think that pressure is always there, but you’re not thinking about it consciously — at least, I wasn’t. I really felt dialed in and I felt like I had to focus on the next shot, the next save all the time.”

The overtimes kept ending with no winning goal. Despite facing a 3-1 deficit with a loss, it wasn’t a tense Flyers dressing room. With the number of characters on the roster — Therien, Jones, Craig Berube, Rick Tocchet — the mood was light. Somebody end this thing already! was a light-hearted rallying cry.

Between soaked skates, multiple undershirts, and unknown weight loss, it was quite a night for Boucher in goal. The amount of hockey played took a toll on his body in-game.

“I was cramping up bad to start that eighth period,” he said. “I remember I was scraping my crease and I had my stretching routine that I did, and I couldn’t do it because I was afraid to seize up. I wouldn’t ever want to go through a game like that ever again.”

Keeping the fluids flowing

Recovery for Boucher was mostly about staying hydrated. He found himself more thirsty than hungry when he played, and Gatorade and Pedialyte helped him replenish his fluids.

Finally, at 12:01 of the fifth overtime, and at around 2:35 a.m. ET, Keith Primeau, acquired that season for Rod Brind’Amour, cut back on Darius Kasparaitis and wired a shot by Ron Tugnutt, ending the third-longest game in NHL history.

“I saw it perfectly,” Boucher said. “I felt like he had made that move a couple of times in that series or I’d seen that move a lot where he goes to the outside and cuts into the middle on his forehand. Sometimes the puck would jump over his stick and it just didn’t work out. In this one, he cut right in and all I heard was clunk and I knew once it made that clunk sound that it was over. It wasn’t a ping. If it’s a ping, it’s the crossbar, but it was distinct. It was clunk and I was like Yes!. 

I remember I skated toward the pile by referee Rob Schick as he was skating off and I patted him on the head. I was like Thank, God this is over. What a feeling to come out on the right side of that one.”

There was an extra day off before Game 5, and ultimately that win would propel the Flyers to a six-game series victory.

“I think everybody knew as that overtime was wearing on, you get the feel like this is the series here,” Boucher said. “Either we’re down 3-1 or we got it to 2-2 going home, and we feel a lot better about ourselves after these two games. We knew the importance of it.”

“Sports Uncovered” utilizes exclusive, in-depth interviews with prominent participants, witnesses and experts to explore new, underreported or forgotten aspects of well-known topics centered in each of the NBC Sports Regional Networks markets.

Episodes also cover: Michael Jordan’s NBA return, in-depth looks at Bill Belichick and the late Sean Taylor, the story behind Barret Robbins’ Super Bowl disappearance, and the University of Oregon’s uniform revolution.

Sports Uncovered” is available on the MyTeams app and on every major podcasting platform: Apple, Google Podcast, iHeart, Stitcher, Spotify, and TuneIn.

MORE:
Tocchet, Jones had Marathon at the Movies before Marathon on Ice
Jones’ memento and what we forget from the Marathon on Ice

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Primeau, Shanahan appear in “Head Games” documentary about concussions

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Concussions and controversial hits have faded into the background thanks to the lockout, but head injuries are still a major concern and storyline in modern sports.

Filmmaker Steve James (of “Hoop Dreams” fame) decided to tackle the issue of concussions in his 2011 documentary “Head Games,” which includes prominent appearances from Brendan Shanahan and Keith Primeau.*

The documentary leans heaviest toward the NFL and football in general, but the NHL’s issues – and measures to make changes – also surface frequently. Some of the clips and photos might bring back some tough memories, as the movie shows memorable checks such as Zdeno Chara’s hit on Max Pacioretty and also discusses the deaths of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Bob Probert.

Yet even though James’ documentary brings up some difficult questions for hockey and sports in general, James told NHL.com that the league has been progressive in many areas.

“I do think all the sports have a ways to go in terms of how they handle rules and discussions around concussions, but the NHL has certainly been more forward-thinking on this issue than football,” James said.

” … I think the fact that Brendan Shanahan has taken that role and taken it very seriously is a very positive thing. Daly was obvious and candid about the League’s view [in the film]. He basically said there is going to be brain injuries, no way around it. I think it was great he was willing to state it.”

You can read a little more about it – including Primeau’s emotional presence in the film – in NHL.com’s article or check out the movie via various outlets. (It’s on Netflix Instant Queue, for instance.)

* -You might not be as excited to see Bill Daly thanks to his prominence in the CBA discussions, but he makes a cameo, too.

PHT Morning Skate: Huberdeau, MacKinnon, and Drouin show their stuff vs. Russia

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Panthers prospect Jonathan Huberdeau had two goals while 2013 draft prospects Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin each had a goal and three assists to lead the QMJHL stars over Russia in Game 2 of the Subway Super Series. (CBC Sports)

Meanwhile, the Karjala Tournament is underway in Europe and Finland surprised Russia with a shootout win thanks to Pekka Rinne. (RT.com)

Tyler Seguin is feeling better about where the lockout is headed. Keep in mind he was 11 or 12 years-old during the last one. (CSNNE.com)

Just so Seguin isn’t out on a limb, Jets captain Andrew Ladd is hopeful as well. (Winnipeg Sun)

Keith Primeau has a new book on the way discussing concussions. (Montreal Gazette)

A Soo Greyhounds player gets hit with a  15-game suspension for a check to the head. Punishing shots to the head severely? What a novel approach! (Globe And Mail)

Mirtle with a great look at Adam Oates cementing his legacy in the Hall of Fame. (Globe And Mail)

Primeau calls Crosby “ambassador for people who have brain injuries”

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Keith Primeau — 14-year NHLer and outspoken advocate for concussion prevention — is praising Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby for displaying courage and foresight in the face of his latest concussion setback.

“Crosby is an ambassador for people who have brain injuries and who have endured head trauma,” Primeau told the Tribune-Review. “People are looking up to his courage as we speak.”

Primeau was forced into retirement at age 34 after suffering a series of concussions (four of them documented). Now 39, Primeau still struggles daily with the after-effects — he told the Canadian Press in November that exertion and exercise makes him lightheaded.

As such, Primeau is now the driving force behind stopconcussions.com, a website he co-founded. It’s designed to heighten awareness about baseline testing, post-concussion syndrome, CTE and more.

In speaking about Crosby, Primeau appreciated the patience and caution shown by No. 87 when he didn’t feel well following Monday’s loss to Boston. Professional athletes don’t always put their health first, according to Primeau.

“For me and my quest, seeing Sidney do the right thing is special,” he said. “The culture we’re brought up in with the hockey world just tells us to play through injuries. That may seem like courage, but it really isn’t.

“This is an injury that can be debilitating. The fact is, Sidney had the courage to speak up when something wasn’t right. Good for him. Maybe people don’t realize it, but that’s a true sign of courage. It really is.”

Ex-NHLer leading charge in concussion awareness

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Most folks remember 16-year-NHL veteran Keith Primeau for his on-ice accomplishments: Two All-Star Game appearances, 619 points in 909 games and scoring the goal to end the longest game in (modern) NHL playoff history.

But with his career now over, Primeau wants to be remembered as something else — a pioneer in hockey concussion research and treatment.

Primeau, 39, retired in 2006 after suffering his fourth concussion.  He still feels the effects today.

“I’m still not able to exercise or exert high energy levels, because it makes me lightheaded,” he told the Canadian Press.

In an effort to keep this from happening to other players, Primeau is promoting the Impact Indicator. It’s a LED device with a small light worn as part of the chin strap, measuring the impact of a blow.

A green light is normal. A dangerous hit and the light will flash red.

The microsensor measures the force and duration of a hit. A red light means a level of impact that has a 50 per cent or higher probability of concussion.

Because concussion symptoms often develop over several hours, a red light takes out the guesswork about whether to remove a player from the game before another more devastating blow.

Reports indicate that “thousands” of football players in the U.S. started wearing the device after it became available for purchase last month. That includes Houston Texans WR Derrick Mason who, along with several of his teammates, has started wearing the indicator in games.

“Everything to this point has been subjective, we go to the sideline and ask our coach or trainer or parent whether they feel we’ve suffered through a possible concussive event,” said Primeau. “With this, as a coach, it would enable me to remove a player from competition, to err on the side of caution, to see if in fact (a concussion) was the case.”

To read more about Primeau’s work with concussion awareness, visit his website: Stopconcussions.com