Hockey

Flyers' Primeau hangs up skates

Philadelphia Flyers captain Keith Primeau retired Thursday, reluctantly ending his 15-year NHL career after failing to receive medical clearance to keep playing.

Philadelphia Flyers captain Keith Primeau retired Thursday, reluctantly ending his 15-year NHL career after failing to receive medical clearance to keep playing.

"This decision will allow me to live a normal life," he said. "And hopefully, with time, few reminders of my injuries."

Primeau, 34, has been suffering from post-concussion syndrome since receiving a blow to the head by Alexander Perezhogin in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens last Oct. 25.

"I am sorry I couldn't overcome this injury and dragged this out as long as I did," Primeau said. "I did it all with the best of intentions and with the thought of returning home and playing in front of 20,000 screaming fans."

Primeau, who has two years and $6.84 million US remaining on his contract, has a history of head injuries.

He sustained a concussion during the 2003-04 NHL campaign and a pair of head injuries in the playoffs later that spring.

"I think a career of concussions has a cumulative effect," Primeau said.

Anticipating the need for a proven centre, the Flyers signed restricted free agent Ryan Kesler to a one-year, $1.9-million US offer sheet.

Kesler, a restricted free agent, spent last season with the Vancouver Canucks, who have a week to match the offer or lose him in return for a second-round draft pick.

"He never gave any indication to anybody that he was going to come back," Flyers general manager Bob Clarke said. "We felt all along that he wasn't going to come back."

"I just really looked forward to getting back on the ice and playing," Primeau said.

'A good player and a great leader'

Primeau posted one goal and six assists for seven points in nine games prior to being injured last season.

The two-time all-star totalled 266 goals and 619 points in 909 NHL games since being drafted third overall by the Detroit Red Wings in 1990.

"He was a good player and a great leader," Flyers head coach Ken Hitchcock said. "That's a great combination.

"[But] he is always going to feel like he didn't get to finish on his own terms."

Primeau spent three seasons with the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes before being packaged to Philadelphia, along with a fifth-round draft pick, for Rod Brind'Amour, Jean-Marc Pelletier and a second-round selection on Jan. 23, 2000.

Assuming the captaincy from Eric Desjardins in 2001, he went on to amass 87 goals and 213 points in 312 games for the Flyers.

Peter Forsberg is a prime candidate to succeed Primeau as captain.

With files from the Canadian Press