Wayne Primeau used lacrosse to help develop him for hockey

Scarborough-born NHLer played in league for 13 seasons

Wayne Primeau playing lacrosse as a kid for the Whitby Garrard Roadrunners. Photo submitted by Wayne Primeau 

Most people would know Wayne Primeau as an NHLer who played 774 games with seven different teams.

One of them was the Toronto Maple Leafs, whom Primeau played 59 games with during the 2009-10 season, which was the last year of his playing career.

What people may not know about Primeau is that the game of lacrosse was a big part of his upbringing, and helped shape him into a hockey player.

“I played for the Whitby Garrard Roadrunners with a bunch of guys who went on to play in the National Lacrosse League in the early stages,” said Primeau, from Las Vegas last week. “At times in my younger ages, I enjoyed the game of lacrosse more than I enjoyed hockey.”

Primeau eventually had to make a decision on which sport was going to be the main focus, a choice that ultimately came down to money.

“Lacrosse salaries are a lot less than that of an NHL player,” says Primeau. “Playing 15 years in the NHL has set me up for life.”

Primeau suggests that young athletes should play multiple sports growing up, and lacrosse is one that he recommends for young hockey players.

“You are running up and down the floor in sprint intervals the exact same as you would in hockey.” Primeau explains. “The IQ and ball movement is just like in hockey.”

Primeau adds that playing lacrosse in the summer can give players a break from hockey, and they can come back excited and ready to go in the fall.

In box lacrosse, there are five players a side and one goaltender, just the same as in hockey. Since it is usually played in hockey rinks with the ice removed, the field of play is the exact same size as it is in hockey. The game of lacrosse also has a similar level of physicality.

Primeau has quite an extensive athletic family. His older brother Keith Primeau was a shutdown two-way centre in the NHL for 15 seasons, most notably with the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings.

“He also played lacrosse, but he was not as big of a fan of the game as I was.” says Primeau.

Primeau has three children who all have gotten a taste of the box game.

His oldest son Mason Primeau is a Vegas Golden Knights prospect who currently has nearly 100 games of experience with the Henderson Silver Knights of the American Hockey League.

His daughter Madison Primeau is on a hockey scholarship in Syracuse in the NCAA, and will transfer for her final two years of eligibility.

“She played field lacrosse in Mimico, and was a pretty decent player,” says Primeau. “Her true passion was hockey.”

Primeau coaches his youngest son Manning who is 13 years old, playing for the Markham Majors U14 AAA team.

“He played lacrosse at the early ages and then when COVID hit he kinda got away from it,” Primeau explains.

There has been a list of big-time NHL players who have played lacrosse growing up, and it includes Wayne Gretzky, Doug Gilmour, Paul Kariya, Paul Coffey, John Tavares, Joe Nieuwendyk, Joe Sakic, Gary Roberts and Connor McDavid.

The uncle of Maple Leafs’ captain John Tavares (also named John Tavares) was a NLL legend for the Buffalo Bandits from 1992 to 2015.

A viral hockey move called “the Michigan” may also be referred to as a “lacrosse-style goal.” It includes picking the puck up on your stick from behind the net, and placing it into the top of the net over the goalie’s shoulder.

Here is Mike Legg of the Michigan Wolverines pulling off the original lacrosse-style goal on Mar. 24, 1996:

An NHL player was not able to do the move until Carolina Hurricanes forward Andrei Svechnikov pulled it off against the Calgary Flames on Oct. 29, 2019, almost 24 years after the original.

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Posted: Mar 22 2023 5:20 pm
Filed under: Hockey Lacrosse Sports