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Report on Mario Lemieux

The Pittsburgh Penguins unveiled a 4,700-pound bronze statue honouring Lemieux outside Consol Energy Center on Wednesday March 8, 2012.
The statue depicts Lemieux splitting a pair of defencemen on his way to scoring a goal against the New York Islanders in 1988. See Special Events for more details ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________



Stats and Awards | Pictures | Retirement | Cup Finals 2008 Detroit VS Pittsburgh | Team Canada | Sign Guest Book |View Guest Book |Sidney Crosby | Penguins History | Stanley Cup Finals 2009 | Mario Lemieux's Family | Special Events


MARIO LEMIEUX

INTRODUCTION

Few would dispute Mario Lemieux's position as one of the most naturally talented players in NHL history because of his offensive skills, enthusiasm, and leadership which he brought to the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team despite cancer and other health problems. He was born, like others of French heritage, with the surname Lemieux, which translates "the best." Mario was possessed with the talent to live up to the name. In the late eighties and half of the nineties (when his health permitted it), Mario surpassed Wayne Gretzky as the most prolific scorer in the world. Before his 1997 "retirement," Lemieux was the only player to average more than two points a game. His goal-scoring percentage of 8.23 (613 goals in 745 games) was the best for players with 150 games.

But Lemieux's most remarkable feat is overcoming Hodgkin's disease, a cancer of the lymph nodes that had taken the life of one of his cousins, and a debilitating back injury. "When asked which was a tougher hockey task for him, battling back from Hodgkin's disease in 1993 or coming back to action after a three-and-a-half year layoff, Lemieux had this to say: "I think the one coming back from the radiation treatments was probably the most successful, I would think because of the fact that I didn't train for six weeks and just went to the hospital every day and I had radiation treatments and my strength was depleted. To be able to come back, I think I averaged close to three points or over three points in the last few games to catch Pat LaFontaine was probably the best of all the comebacks. "


MARIO'S EARLY LIFE

Growing Up Years

Mario Lemieux was born on October 5, 1965, in Ville Emard, a working-class neighborhood on the outskirts of Montreal, Canada. Mario was the youngest of three boys born to Pierette, who is a house wife, and Jean-Guy, who is a construction worker. Mario and his brothers, Richard and Alain, grew up in a small redbrick house in a working class neighborhood. At the age of 16, Mario dropped out of school with a 10th-grade education, to concentrate on hockey. Like most people in Montreal, Mario learned French in school and spoke French at home. Although Mario picked up bits and pieces of English while he was growing up, his main language was French. It wasn't until playing for the Penguins and living year-round in Pittsburgh, that Mario became comfortable with his second language.

Hockey Beginnings

Mario was taken for his first skating lesson when he was three years old. Like thousands of children before him he had to learn how to skate and to play hockey from scratch. During his first years on skates Mario skated under the watchful eye of coach Fernand Fichaud. One year after his first hesitant steps onto the ice when he still was only four years old Mario showed Fichaud such a specular move that a dozen years later the moment still sparkles as bright as a diamond in the memory of the coach. He recalls the play began with Mario taking the puck and skating around two or three defenders. Those moves around his opponents showed nice skating and puck-handling abilities. Mario skated in alone on the goalie, shifting his body and the puck from side to side until the goalie was pulled into the empty net and raised his stick in glee. Somehow, without ever having been taught the maneuver, Mario had deked out the goaltender.

By the time Mario was six years old, he was playing center for the Ville Emard atoms. And even at that age, Mario was a scoring machine who regularly rang up four, five, even six goals per game. Mario was a very accurate shooter, and even though he wasn't yet any bigger than the average boy, he had a very hard shot. The lethal combination often caused goaltenders to cringe and tighten up when they saw Mario swooping toward them with his stick raised in the air, ready to drive a stinging slap shot at them. One goalie, Carl Parker, became so intimidated after one of Mario's supersonic shots had hit him in the neck and knocked him to the ice, that the next time Mario came gliding in on goal Parker just skated out of the crease and allowed Mario to tap the puck into the empty net. Also, by the time he was six years old he was the undisputed star of the Ville Emard atoms, having led the Hurricanes to victory in six of the seven tournaments they entered, and skating away with six Most Valuable Player trophies.

As Mario grew older, and progressed up the ladder from atom to peewee and then onto bantam, his scoring touch, passing skills, and puck-handling abilities became even more exquisite. Mario's skills were so startling that word quickly spread beyond the Ville Emard district, and soon hockey fans from all over Montreal were coming to watch the prodigy. He became such a big drawing card that the Hurricanes would pull in thousands of curious fans to a game that would normally attract only a few hundred people.

By the time he was fourteen, Mario had gained a reputation as the best young hockey player in Quebec, and the best prospect that the province had produced since Guy Lafleur had set the minor leagues ablaze in the 1960s, before going on to a Hall of Fame career with the Montreal Canadians.

Nineteen-eighty-one turned out to be a big year in Mario's young life. With 62 goals in only 40 games, he was the league's top gun while playing for the Montreal Concordia team in Midget Triple A hockey. This showing secured his selection by Laval, who owned the number-one overall draft pick in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. It also caused hockey agents to come knocking at the door of the Lemieux's redbrick home. Mario who was only fifteen years old, decided to sign with Bob Perno, who had a close relationship with Wayne Gretzky, who had just topped off his third year with Edmonton Oilers. The agent sealed the deal by promising to get Mario a million-dollar NHL contact if Mario delivered on his boast to break the Quebec junior scoring records and become the best junior player. Perno introduced Mario to Wayne Gretzky. Mario was so impressed with Wayne that he wanted to change his number form 27 to 99 but Perno convinced him to get his own number. He suggested to turn 99 upside down to 66 which he did.

In Mario's first year with Laval he lost the rookie of the year. With only 96 points in 60 games he didn't live up to the spectacular performances that were expected of him. In his second year he scored 184 points, including 84 goals in only 66 games. He finished second in scoring to Pat LaFontaine but he did lead Laval to first place finish.

By the time Mario was sixteen, he was 6' 4" and filled out to 200 pounds. Mario had all the tools that he needed to be the best player, but he was lacking the discipline to work and develop the full tapestry of his unique talents. He was missing the internal fire. As Mario approached his third and final season with Laval, he realized that this was his last chance to fulfill the boast he had made to Bob Perno three years earlier: to break the Quebec Major Junior League scoring records and become the best Junior. Mario scored at least one point in the first games of the season, shattering the single-season consecutive game scoring streak of 43 that Pat LaFontaine had set the prior year, and the 60-game streak that Guy Lafleur had established over a two-season span. But with only four games remaining he had only registered in a 62-game schedule. And even after Mario had picked up his pace by scoring nine goals in his next three games, he still needed another hat trick in the season finale, just to tie Lafeur's record. Mario electrified the crowd with a double hat trick and added five assists.

Mario's final year was marred somewhat by a controversy in the middle of the season. Mario refused to join Team Canada when going to Sweden. He wanted to spend some time with his family and he had an unhappy experience the year before in international tournaments. The powers that be were outraged at Mario's refusal to join the Team. They tried to force him to go by issuing a suspension to anyone who would not go. Newspapers started to call him ungrateful and unpatriotic. He took the league to court to prevent the suspension from taking effect. The judge ruled in Mario's favor saying he had no obligation to play for Team Canada. Mario was disappointed that he never led Laval to the championship. He was kept at just 2 points in the playoffs.


MARIO'S HOCKEY CAREER

His Career

The Pittsburgh Penguins owned the right to the top pick in the 1984 draft by virtue of finishing at the bottom of the NHL standings. The Penguins wanted to draft Mario but he refused to go along with the tradition of putting on the team's sweater and having your picture taken at draft day. He wanted a contract worked out prior to the draft. So Penguins promised Mario $760,00 spread over three years. He refused it; he wanted a million dollars. When draft day came and his name was called out to go down he got up and waved but he stood fast and refused to go down to the Penguin's table. Once again Mario had clashed with the hockey establishment. "The press seeing this said "A tasteless demonstration of bad manners, unmatched by anything I've ever seen'." They looked on him as an arrogant and spoiled brat. Within a week of the draft-day controversy, the two sides got together and agreed to a three-year contract that would allow Mario to earn his million dollars if he scored a specified number of goals and points.

With the controversy over, Mario arrived in Pittsburgh, only eighteen years old and about to be living away from home for the first time and his girlfriend, Nathalie Asselin. He still didn't know how to speak a lot of English yet so he only answered reporters with a yes or no. Seeing this, general manager Eddie Johnston came up with a smart way to help Mario ease into his new situation. He arranged for Mario to move in with Tom and Nancy Matthews and their three children. Living with the Matthews would help him speak English better. Mario's first game in the NHL was October 11, 1984, and he broke into the league with a bang by beating Bruins goalie Pete Peeters with the first shot he had ever taken as a NHL player. Although they lost the game Mario got a point in his first game. He was held to only one goal in his first 11 games. "The pace of play is so much faster, the players are bigger, stronger, and smarter, and if you make a mistake, they take advantage of it" said Mario after his first game.

Around the thirtieth game he started to get the feel of the game. He started to rack up points and earned a spot on the All Star team.

He scored two goals and added an assist to win the MVP in his very first All Star game. Mario finished his first season with 43 goals and 57 assists and 100 points- the third highest total for a rookie in league history. He won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year. The Penguins finished 12 points out of a playoff spot.

At the beginning of the next season Mario played with the Canadian Team during which he scored two goals and won the silver medal. In Mario's second season he scored at least one point in 65 of the 79 games in which he played, including a 28-game scoring streak in which he racked 59 points. He was 6' 4 210 pounds. The Penguins would win 10 more games than they did in the previous year. But were still unable to make the playoffs. Mario finished the season with 141 points. Mario finished second to Wayne Gretzky in the voting for the Hart Trophy. He did win the Lester B. Pearson Award which is given to the best player in the league as voted by the National Hockey Players Association, whereas the Hart Trophy is voted for by the media. He became the second highest paid player in the NHL under Wayne Gretzky.

Mario began the 1986-87 season with a scoring surge that earned him player of the month. Mario was sidelined for 13 games with a knee injury. Because of this injury the Penguins missed the playoffs again. Although he finished third in the league in scoring with 54 goals and 53 assists his points per-game were down from last year. Some of the reporters who followed the Pittsburgh Penguins began to express impatience with Mario's sometimes lackadaisical play. They chided Mario to bring his work ethic up to the level of his talent. " If not," said one scribe, "Mario will always be a pale copy of Wayne Gretzky, and the Penguins will remain mired in mediocrity." Mario declined an offer to play in the 1987 World Championships which once again provoked the ire of the hockey establishment. Mario played in the 1987 Canada Cup a pre-season tournament that featured the national teams of Canada and United States as well as the top European hockey powers. Team Canada needed a win to reach the three-game final series against the USSR, it was a two-goal, three-point effort by Mario that sparked them to a 5-3 triumph over the USSR. Although Mario posted two assists in Game One of the Canada Cup finals Canada lost 6-5 in overtime. For most of the games Team Canada coach Mike Keenan, had played Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky on separate lines. But after losing he put them on the same line. With Mario and Gretzky on the same line Mario racked up the final three goals to win and even up the series 1-1. The Dynamic Duo also teamed up in the decisive third game as Mario converted a Gretzky pass into the goal that lifted Team Canada to another 6-5 win and the Canada Cup Championship.

When Mario returned to the Pittsburgh Penguins in training camp he was appointed Team Captain by new coach Pierre Creamer. Mario had a great year. Making the All Star Team Mario put on a performance that ranks with the very best in All Star Game history. With six goals and six assists including the game winning overtime goal Mario's team won 12-11 with Mario being involved in all the goals for his team. He won the All-Star Game MVP. Mario finished the year winning the Art Ross Trophy as the league's top point getter and winning the Hart Trophy. At only twenty-two years of age, Mario had become behind Gretzky and Hall of Fame defenseman Bobby Orr, the third youngest player to win the Hart Trophy, and the second youngest, after Orr, to snare the Hart and Art Ross Trophies in the same season. The Penguins missed the playoffs by only one point. The Penguins finished above 500 for the first time in nine years. Some people saw the 1987-88 season as a changing of the guard, with Mario replacing Gretzky as the NHL's premier player. Mario seemed to take the view that he had established himself as the heir apparent, but that Gretzky was still The One. "I thought it was about time that I started to show my stuff. It all started, really, at the Canada Cup, playing with Wayne. I learned a lot from him. In my opinion, he's still the best player in the world."

In the season of 1988-1989, Mario finished the season winning his second straight scoring title with 199 points, 85 goals, and 114 assists. He set a single season record with 13 short-handed goals. He became the second player to score 70 goals in two seasons. In the 1989-90 season Mario finished fourth in league in scoring with 123 points 45 goals 78 assists despite missing 21 games due to herniated back.

Back Problems

On June 11, 1990, Mario had surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back. In the 1990-91 season, Mario missed the first 50 games recovering from a rare bone disease resulting from a surgery-related infection. However, he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, scoring 44 points, 16 goals, 28 assists, leading Pittsburgh to their first Stanley Cup Championship.

Defies All Odds

In the 1991-92 season, he won his third scoring title with 131 points, 44 goals, 87 assists. He broke his left hand when slashed by New York Rangers Adam Graves in Game 2 of Patrick Division finals, but returned after missing only five games. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy again, scoring 34 points, 16 goals, 18 assists as Pittsburgh won its second straight Stanley Cup. In January, 1993, Mario was diagnosed with a Nodular Lymphocytic form of Hodgkin's disease. He underwent treatment in the form of radiation between February 1 and March 2. In the 1992-93 season Mario played in only 60 games after recovering from Hodgkins disease-a disease which affects the neck. Mario won his fourth scoring title with 160 points, 69 goals, 91 assists. He won the Hart Trophy for the second time. He was awarded the Pearson Award again. He was awarded the Masterton Trophy as player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. On July 28, 1993, he had his second back surgery in three years to repair a herniated muscle in his back. In the 1993-94 season, Mario missed the first 10 games recovering from surgery and a total of 58 games with back problems.

On August 29, 1994, he announced he was taking a medical leave of absence due to fatigue, an aftereffect of his 1993 radiation treatments, and would sit out the 1994-95 season. On June 20, 1995, Mario announced he would return for the 1995-96 season. On October 26, 1995, Mario scored his 500th career goal at New York Islanders in his 605th game, becoming the second-fastest player to attain the plateau.

In the 1995-96 season, Mario won his third Hart Trophy as MVP, becoming only the seventh player to achieve the feat at least three times. He became the fourth player to win fifth scoring title with 161 points, 69 goals, 92 assists. He led the NHL in power-play goals, 31, tied for the third-highest single-season total in league history.

On February 4, 1997, Mario scored his 600th career goal vs. Vancouver in his 719th game, becoming the second-fastest player to reach the milestone. In the 1996-97 season, Mario won his sixth title with 122, points 50 goals and 72 assists. He recorded his 10th career 100- point season, second to Gretzky's record of 15. Mario would play in his 8th and final All Star game in which the greatest assist man set up the greatest goal scorer of all time and probably greatest goalie. When Wayne Gretzky set up Mario Lemieux for goal on Patrick Roy.

Retirement

On April 6, 1997, Mario announced he will retire following the playoffs. On April 26, 1997, Mario had a goal and an assist in his final NHL game as Pittsburgh lost 6-3 to Philadelphia and was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in five games. Mario left the ice in tears at age 32. Mario Lemieux was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on November 17, 1997. The three- year waiting period to get into the Hall of Fame was lifted only for Mario since he did so much for the game. Two days later on November 19, 1997 Mario Lemieux had his number 66 retired and hung from the roof.

Comeback

On September 3, 1999, the Hockey world was a buzz. It was announced that Mario Lemieux's ownership group officially took over the Penguins on the eve of training camp opening. Lemieux rolled much of the $26 million-plus owed him in deferred payments into an equity stake and acquired nearly a dozen investors to buy the team he once played for. He saved the Team from bankruptcy. On December 12, 2000, Mario Lemieux announced that he would come out of retirement and play hockey again at age 35. "I'm not coming back to embarrass myself," Lemieux said, "I wouldn't come back unless I thought I could play at a high level and regain the title of the best player in the world. I have the desire and passion to do it."

But there is an underlying factor that has driven Lemieux to the brink of returning to the game; that is his family. One of Lemieux's regrets upon leaving the game was that his four children especially newborn Austin would not get the chance to see him play. "He's a young kid that gets up in the morning with a hockey stick in his hand," said Lemieux, close to tears. "I'm sure he'd like to see his father play hockey." Lemieux began a two-day workout with an exercise bike and weights on November 1. Mario hired Jay Caufield as his personal trainer to get ready for his comeback. Caufield put Lemieux through the paces seven days a week for more than a month, allowing a one-day break for Christmas.

Mario would return to hockey on December 27, 2000, against the Toronto Maple Leafs after a 3 year layoff from the game. Just 33 seconds into his return Lemieux registered an assist on a Jaromir Jagr goal. "It was a great start, obviously," said Lemieux. "We got a goal on our first shift and that took a little pressure off the whole line and gave us some confidence." Midway through the second period Mario scored a goal and sent the crowd into a frenzy. Four minutes later he added another assist. Mario would finish his first game back with 1 goal and 2 assists. "I was a little bit nervous before the game and throughout the day as well," he admitted. "It was a great experience. I was looking forward to it. I've been thinking about this for a long time now since I started training two months ago. It was great to be back and be a part of the team again." When asked which was a tougher hockey task for him, battling back from Hodgkin's disease in 1993 or coming back to action after a three-and-a half year layoff, Lemieux had this to say: "I think the one coming back from the radiation treatments was probably the most successful, I would think because of the fact that I didn't train for six weeks and just went to the hospital every day and had radiation treatments and my strength was depleted. To be able to come back, I think I averaged close to three points or over three points in the few games to catch Pat LaFontaine was probably the best of all comebacks."

Mario started to rack up points again scoring 61 points in 35 games so far this season with 31 goals 30 assists. Mario is on track to score 41 goals and 41 assists and 81 points if he keeps pace. It is predicted he would scored 72 goals and 72 assists if he had played the whole season. But for a few weeks in mid-February, Mario needed help tying his skates because his back was hurting. He slightly injured his back in practice. Mario kept playing but slowed down his scoring. He took a game off on March 8, 2001, to rest his back. Now his back is fine and he is still playing great hockey and racking up points. Recently CTV Sports Net had a camera that focused on Mario alone and kept track of his stats. It was called Mario Cam. Mario continues to start off where he left off when he retired as being the world's greatest player.

Mario would finish the 2000-2001 season with a total of 43 games played and 35 goals 41 assists and 76 points. The Penguins would make the playoffs beating both the Washington Capitials and Buffalo Sabres before losing to the New Jersey Devils in the Conference Final. In 18 Playoff games Mario had 6 goals and 11 assists with a total of 17 points. Mario's comeback inspired another Great superstar to come out of retirement Michael Jordan.

2001-2002 SEASON

The Penguins would start the 2001-2002 season on a low note. Allstar forward Jaromir Jagr who won the 2001 Art Ross Trophy (which is awarded to the player who gets the most points in a season) got traded. Mario got injured early in the season with a hip injury. Mario had to undergo surgery for his hip. He would return earlier than expected but was sidelined with the injury once again. Mario was announced Team Capitan of Canada's Men's Olympic Hockey Team. He would return before the Olympics. During the Olympics Mario played 5 games. He got 2 goals and 4 assists. Mario led Canada to the Gold Medal Game against the United States. Canada would go on to win the Gold Medal with the help of Mario. Mario would play a few games after the Olympic break but decided to take the rest of the season off to rest his aching hip. He finished the 2001-2002 season with a total of 24 games played with 6 goals and 25 assists. 31 points. The penguins would miss the playoffs.

2002-2003 SEASON

Mario returned to lead the NHL in scoring for most of the 2002-2003 season, only to finish eighth with 91 points in 67 games after sitting out nearly a month with a sore groin. He did not score a goal in his final nine games, following a series of late-season trades that left him with inexperienced and far less talented linemates.

2003-2004 SEASON

Mario Lemieux injured his left hip three days after becoming only the sixth player in NHL history to reach the 1,700-point mark. He had one goal and eight assists in 10 games and had an eight-game scoring streak just before getting injured. Mario would miss the rest of the 2003-2004 season.

World Cup Of Hockey 2004

Mario would be named Team Captain for Team Canada. Canada would go 6-0 and win the championship with the help of Mario. Mario would finish the tournment with 6 games played 1 goal and 4 assists.

2004-2005 SEASON

The 04-05 season would be canceled due to a lockout. But that didn't stop Mario from making hockey headlines once again as he and Wayne Gretzky would meet with players and owners to try and save the season, but it was to no avail.

05-06 SEASON

January 24,2006 "I feel the time has come. It is in the best interest of myself, my family and the Pittsburgh Penguins." Mario Lemieux stated at a press conference announcing his retirement from hockey again.

Lemieux, 40, listed health, family and an inability to play at an elite level as his reasons for retiring.

"I can no longer play at the level that I was accustomed to in the past," Lemieux said. "That has been very frustrating to me in the past year."

Lemieux, one of the most gifted players in hockey history, had been sidelined for more than a month with atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that can be treated with medication.

He finished with 22 points in 26 games, but an uncharacteristic minus-16 rating.

"The new NHL is for the young guys," Lemieux said. "We have some young guys dominating it and a few here in Pittsburgh. "They are the future of the NHL. And I look forward to watching them play."

Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1997, he ranks seventh all-time with 690 goals and 1,033 assists for 1,723 points in 915 NHL games. Lemieux also won six NHL scoring titles, was named the league's most valuable player three times and captured two Conn Smythe trophies as playoff MVP. "I've done pretty much everything I set out to do," he said. "Winning two Stanley Cups allows me to leave the game in peace."

Lemieux captained Team Canada to a gold medal at the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic Winter Games, then again at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. But he withdrew his name from consideration for the Torino Olympics, citing health problems.


MARIO'S PERSONAL LIFE

Family

In 1993, he married Nathalie Asselin, whom he'd been seeing since his teens. They have four children named Lauren, Stephanie, and Austin and Alexa. They live in Sewickley, Pittsburgh. For More information see Mario Lemieux's Family for more details

Recreation

Mario's pastime is golf. Mario was first introduced to golf in the summer of 1981 by his agent Perno. "There is something clean and bright about golf. It's a game where you are alone and with your- self. That's something I like sometimes, to be alone and to see what is inside myself." Mario plays in a number of celebrity golf tournaments with such stars as Michael Jordan who is Mario's golf buddy.

Charitable Organizations

Mario has several charitable organizations. One is the Mario Lemieux Foundation. His battle with Hodgkin's disease in 1993 made him realize how fragile life can be. It also helped him see how fortunate he was to play the greatest game in the world and celebrate two Stanley Cup Championships. But he knows there are many people who are not as fortunate as he is. That is why the Mario Lemieux Foundation continues to be important to him, and why he devotes time to raising funds for the Foundation, so he can continue to award grants for cancer research and other worthy causes.

Since he created the Foundation's Board of Directors for handling the basic administration of the Lemieux Foundation in 1993, he has awarded several grants, including one to the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, for their treatments for Hodgkin's disease. The Lemieux Foundation is not a short-term project, but life-long opportunity to give hope to patients and families facing what is a frightening battle. He devotes much of his time to the Foundation raising funds to help reach the ultimate goal: a cure for cancer.

Among the donations made by the foundation is a planned multi-million, multi-year gift to The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Health System. The Mario Lemieux Foundation has also established the Austin Lemieux Neonatal Research Project, in honor of Mario and Nathalie Lemieux's healthy son who was born prematurely. This grant supports research at Magee-Womens Hospital, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in their Division of Neonatology and Development Biology. Additionally, the Lemieux Foundation supports other organizations such as the McGowan Center for Artifcial Organ Development, the Leukemia Society, the Lupus Foundation and the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

The other charitable organization is the Mellon Mario Lemieux Celebrity Invitational Golf Tournament which draws blue ribbon celebrities from the worlds of sports and entertainment. It goes on for four days. It serves as the largest fundraising vehicle for the Mario Lemieux Foundation. The public is welcome to watch the tournament from the gallery and participate in a variety of family activities, while celebrities compete for a cash purse.


CONCLUSION

Many knowledgeable hockey people were excited when they heard that Lemieux was ending his retirement in hopes of leading the Pittsburgh Penguins to another Stanley Cup. But they were also aware that Lemieux had performed heroically on many occasions simply by taking the ice. Forwards, particularly centers like Lemieux, are also vulnerable to the shoving and two-handed high-sticking that defensemen subject them to in front of the net. It's a fact of hockey that if you are going to score, you are going to pay the price. Few players have ever scored like Mario Lemieux and few have paid a higher price in terms of significant, constant, debilitating pain.

Give Mario Lemieux a challenge and he'll overcome it. According to NHL.com's Rob Picarello, that's been Mario Lemieux's way for years. Whether it's cancer, a bad back or a stifling defense facing him, Lemieux always seems to find a way to succeed. He has certainly lived up to his surname Lemieux-"the best." Before Lemieux, no one has ever been struck down by a deadly disease at the very moment when he was the best in his sport at the best he ever would. He has achieved miraculous remission, struggling with health problems with a back injury so grievous that it has benched him after he merely laced up a skate. That is the stuff that answers people these days who wonder where all our sports heroes have gone. The Magnificent One is truly a hockey hero despite all odds.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Mario Lemieux did not make himself available to the media with Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup finals in 2008. But for the first time since he captained the Penguins' Cup-winning team in 1992, the Hall of Famer, patiently answering questions from reporters prior to Game 1 of this season's rematch between Pittsburgh and Detroit.See Stanley Cup Finals 2009 link for details.

Stats and Awards | Pictures | Retirement | Cup Finals 2008 Detroit VS Pittsburgh | Team Canada |Sign Guest Book |View Guest Book|Sidney Crosby | Penguins History | Stanley Cup Finals 2009 | Mario Lemieux's Family | Special Events