Mario Lemieux (; French: [ləmjø]; born October 5, 1965) is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player. He played parts of 17 seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) for the Pittsburgh Penguins between 1984 and 2006, and he assumed ownership of the franchise in 1999. Nicknamed "The Magnificent One", "Le Magnifique" and "Super Mario" after the fictional character of the same name, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. Lemieux’s combination of size, strength, athleticism, and creativity made him arguably the best player of all time. A gifted playmaker and fast skater despite his large size, Lemieux often beat defencemen with fakes and dekes.Drafted first overall by the Penguins in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft, Lemieux led Pittsburgh to consecutive Stanley Cup championships in 1991 and 1992. Under his ownership, the Penguins won additional titles in 2009, 2016, and 2017. He is the only man to have his name on the Cup both as a player and owner. He also led Team Canada to an Olympic gold medal in 2002, a championship at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, and a Canada Cup in 1987. He won the Lester B. Pearson Award as the most outstanding player voted by the players four times, the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player (MVP) during the regular season three times, the Art Ross Trophy as the league's points leader six times, and the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoffs MVP in 1991 and 1992. He is the only player to score one goal in each of the five possible situations in a single NHL game, a feat he accomplished in 1988. At the time of his retirement, he was the NHL's seventh-highest career points scorer with 690 goals and 1,033 assists. He ranks second in NHL history with a 0.754 career goals-per-game average, behind only Mike Bossy (0.762). He ranks second in NHL history with a 1.129 career assists-per-game average, behind only Wayne Gretzky (1.320). He also ranks second in NHL history with 1.883 points-per-game average, behind only Wayne Gretzky (1.921). Lemieux was never able to play a full season, and during his career he played in 70 or more games in a season on only six occasions; four of those seasons were before the age of 25. Lemieux's career was plagued by health problems that limited him to 915 of a possible 1,430 regular season games between the opening of the 1984–85 campaign and the final game of 2005–2006. Lemieux's NHL debut was on October 11, 1984 and his final game took place on December 16, 2005. His numerous ailments included spinal disc herniation, Hodgkin's lymphoma, chronic tendinitis of a hip-flexor muscle, and chronic back pain so severe that other people had to tie his skates. He retired on two occasions due to these health issues, first in 1997 after battling lymphoma before returning in 2000, and then a second and final time in 2006 after being diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. Lemieux also missed the entire 1994–95 season due to Hodgkin's lymphoma. Despite his lengthy absences from the game, his play remained at a high level upon his return to the ice; he won the Hart Trophy and scoring title in 1995–96 after sitting out the entire previous season. He was on pace for 188 points, but only played in 70 games. He was also a finalist for the Hart Trophy when he made his comeback in 2000. In 1999, he bought the then-bankrupt Penguins and their top minor-league affiliate, the American Hockey League's (AHL) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, and was the team's principal owner until selling controlling interest in the team to Fenway Sports Group in 2021. However, he remains part-owner and chairman of the board. The Hockey Hall of Fame inducted Lemieux immediately after his first retirement in 1997, waiving the normal three-year waiting period; upon his return in 2000, he became the third Hall of Famer (after Gordie Howe and Guy Lafleur) to play after being inducted. Lemieux's impact on the NHL has been significant: Andrew Conte of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review called him the saviour of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and after Lemieux's retirement, Wayne Gretzky commented that "You don't replace players like Mario Lemieux ... The game will miss him." Bobby Orr called him "the most talented player I've ever seen." Orr, along with Bryan Trottier and numerous fans, speculated that if Lemieux had had fewer health issues, his on-ice achievements would have been much greater. In 2017, he was named one of the "100 Greatest NHL Players". In 2004, he was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame.
You must log in to post a comment.Log in
There are no comments yet.