Robert Reginald Primeau
Born: August 13, 1936 (Prince Albert, Saskatchewan)
Died: May 28, 2014 (Fort Wayne, Indiana)
A tiny centreman, the elusive Reg Primeau was a star player with the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Komets of the International Hockey League in the 1960s. He helped the Komets win Turner Cup championships in 1963 and ’65.
Primeau spent 7 1/2 seasons with the Komets, who named him to the team’s hall of fame and retired his No. 12 sweater in a ceremony in 2001.
Primeau was the second youngest of 16 children born to Mary Catherine and Richard Primeau. He played four seasons of junior hockey with the hometown Prince Albert (Sask.) Mintos, coached by Ullyot. In 1955-56, he scored 51 goals in 50 games. The 19-year-old also earned a three-game tryout with the senior Saskatoon Quakers that season. He recorded three assists.
After a full season in the Western Hockey League in 1957-58 with Saskatoon, during which the team moved to St. Paul, Alta., Primeau divided the 1958-59 season with three teams in three leagues — Quakers (WHL), Trois-Rivieres Lions (QHL) and Troy Bruins (IHL), under the unforgiving direction of Eddie Shore.
In 1959-60, Primeau scored four goals in a game against the Minneapolis Millers, two of those coming just seven seconds apart. Near the end of the season, the Falcons players agreed to take a pay cut to keep the team afloat. Primeau and one other player refused.
A disappointing stint with the Portland Buckaroos (three goals and seven assists in 28 games) was followed by the much more successful time with the Komets. On the midwinter cross-continent drive from Portland, Primeau had considered returning to Prince Albert with his wife and young family. His mother talked him into continuing with his hockey career.
The 5-foot-9, 170-pound player was a second-line centre behind Len Thomson, a league legend, offering the Komets a potent one-two punch. The Komets appeared in the Turner Cup finals for three consecutive seasons, winning twice.
Primeau’s mother was a Cree and his teammates called him Chief and Hawkeye. The organist at the arena in Fort Wayne played “war dance” music from the movies whenever Primeau poised to take a face-off.
His final campaign with the Komets came in 1968-69, when he scored 18 goals with 32 assists in 55 games. It was the only Komets season in which he recorded an average of less than a point per game. His best campaign came in 1961-62, when he netted 39 goals with 66 assists for 105 points.
Primeau worked as a food salesman. Late in life, he lost his right leg to diabetes, but was eventually fitted with a prosthetic leg, returning to the ice to skate.
In 1998, he was inducted into the Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame.