(the magnificent one)
|6 ft 4.5 in (1.94 m)
235 lb (107 kg)
|Teams||Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL)
Laval Voisins (QMJHL)
|Born||October 5 1965
Montreal, Quebec, CA
|NHL Draft||1st overall, 1984
|Pro Career||1984/85 – 1993/94
1995/96 – 1996/97
2000/01 – 2005/06
|Hall of Fame, 1997|
Mario Lemieux (born October 5, 1965) is a retired professional ice hockey centre who played 17 seasons for the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League (NHL) between 1984 and 2005. He is also the Penguins' principal owner and chairman of the board, having bought the team out of bankruptcy in 1999.
Lemieux's career was marred by injuries— he played 915 out of a potential 1428 regular season games. His numerous ailments included spinal disc herniation, Hodgkin's lymphoma, chronic tendinitis of a hip-flexor muscle, and chronic back pain so severe that he had other people tie his skates. He has retired twice because of his health: first in 1997 after battling lymphoma (he returned in 2000), and for a second and final time after being diagnosed with an atrial fibrillation. Despite his injuries, Lemieux won three Hart trophies as the most valuable player, six Art Ross Trophies as the leading scorer, and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP during both Stanley Cup victories. At the time of his retirement, he was the seventh highest all-time scorer with 690 goals and 1,033 assists.
Lemieux was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame immediately after his first retirement, 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 "savior" 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, speculate that had Lemieux not suffered so many injuries, his on-ice achievements would have been much greater. Lemieux has won two Stanley Cups, an Olympic gold medal, and two World Cups of Hockey (one while it was still the Canada Cup). In 2004, he was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame.
Mario Lemieux was born in Montreal to Pierrette, a stay-at-home mom, and Jean-Guy Lemieux, a construction worker. He and his older brothers Alain and Richard grew up in a working class family in the Ville-Émard district. Mario began practicing hockey at age 3 in his basement; before using real equipment, he and his brothers used wooden kitchen spoons as hockey sticks and bottle caps as pucks. His father created a rink on the front lawn so that the boys could practice regularly, and according to family legend, the family sometimes packed snow onto the living room carpet so the brothers could practice indoors when it was dark.
Lemieux started his career with the Laval Voisins of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). When he was drafted at age 15, he declared that he would break league records; in the 1983-84 QMJHL season, Lemieux broke the league record for points in a season with 282 (133 goals, 149 assists) in 70 games. In his last game of the regular season, Lemieux needed three goals to tie Guy Lafleur's record of 130 goals— he scored six goals and added six assists in a 16-4 victory.
Although he played in the 1983 World Junior Hockey Championships, Lemieux refused to play for the Canadian Juniors in 1984 because he disliked how coach Dave King treated him in the previous tournament. He also did not want to break up his junior season. He finished his QMJHL career with 562 points (247 goals, 315 assists) in three seasons.
Before the 1984 NHL Entry Draft, Lemieux announced he wanted to play for whomever drafted him. He and his agent were deadlocked with the Penguins and could not negotiate a contract. Because of this, when the Penguins called his name as the first overall draft pick, he did not shake general manager Eddie Johnston's hand or don the Penguins jersey, as is NHL tradition. He claimed he was upset about the contract negotiation, and said that "Pittsburgh doesn't want [him] bad enough." Even though the draft was held in Montreal, over 3,000 fans viewed a broadcast in Mellon Arena — a typical Penguins game drew less than 7,000 fans at the time. Lemieux's actions upset many fans and led to accusations of arrogance and aloofness. After the draft, Johnston signed Lemieux to a two-year contract for $600,000, plus a $150,000 bonus for signing. Although Lemieux wore the jersey #27 during his time with the Laval Voisins, he wanted to adopt Wayne Gretzky's #99 when he entered the NHL. However, his agent advised him to create his own identity; thus, Lemieux turned #99 upside down and landed on #66, which stuck with him throughout his career.
At the start of Lemieux's career, the Penguins were in financial turmoil and there were rumours of relocation. The team declared bankruptcy after the 1974-75 season, and by 1983, they were averaging less than 7,000 fans per game — less than half of their arena's capacity.
Lemieux debuted on October 11, 1984 against the Boston Bruins and scored a goal with his very first NHL shot, on his first shift. Later that season, Lemieux played in the NHL All-Star Game and became the first rookie to be named the All-Star Game's Most Valuable Player. Despite missing seven games during the season, Lemieux scored 100 points and won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the rookie of the year.
The next season, Lemieux finished second in league scoring with 141 points, behind Wayne Gretzky's NHL-record 215 points. He won the Lester B. Pearson Award as the NHL's best regular-season player as voted by his peers. Lemieux missed 17 games of the 1986-87 NHL season — his point production slipped, and the Penguins once again failed to make the playoffs. However, he played in the Canada Cup during the summer of 1987 and set a tournament record 11 goals in 9 games; his last goal, which clinched the Canadian victory, came against the Soviet team with 1:26 remaining in the third period. Lemieux cited his Canada Cup experience as the reason for his elevated play later on, stating, "Remember, I was only 21 years old at the time. To be around guys like Wayne [Gretzky] and Mark Messier and Paul Coffey [...] was a tremendous learning experience".
By the 1987-88 season, Wayne Gretzky had won seven consecutive Art Ross Trophies for leading the league in points. That season, fueled by his Canada Cup experience, Lemieux scored 168 points and won his first NHL scoring title. He also won his first Hart Memorial Trophy as the league's Most Valuable Player to his team, and the All-Star Game MVP award after a record-setting six-point game. Despite Lemieux's success, the Penguins did not qualify for the playoffs.
In the 1988-89 season, Lemieux led the league with 114 assists (tied with Gretzky) and 85 goals for 199 points; he is the only player to approach Gretzky's mammoth 200+ point seasons. Lemieux finished the season a close second to Gretzky in voting for the Hart Trophy, and set several milestones and records in the process, becoming the second player to score 70+ goals in a season, the fourth player to score 50 goals in 50 games, and the only player to score 13 shorthanded goals in one season.
Perhaps the defining moment of Lemieux's season was on December 31, 1988, in a game against the New Jersey Devils. In that game, Lemieux scored eight points and became the only player in NHL history to score a goal in all five possible game situations in the same game: even-strength, power-play, shorthanded, penalty shot, and empty-net. Lemieux had another five-goal, eight-point performance in a 10-7 victory during the postseason against the Philadelphia Flyers on April 25, 1989. He tied the NHL record for most goals and points in a postseason game, most goals in a postseason period (four in the first), and most assists in a postseason period (three in the second). However, the Penguins lost the series four games to three.
During the 1989-90 NHL season, Lemieux scored at least one point in 46 consecutive games. The streak's length was second only to Gretzky's 51-game streak. Lemieux won his third All-Star Game MVP with a four-goal performance. Although he missed 21 games, he finished fourth in the league in scoring with 123 points (45 goals, 78 assists). The Penguins did not qualify for the playoffs.
Lemieux's back injury developed into a herniated disc, which subsequently developed an infection. On July 11, 1990, Lemieux underwent back surgery to fix the disk, and he missed 50 games in the 1990-91 NHL season. In his absence, the Penguins acquired players Larry Murphy, Ron Francis, and Ulf Samuelsson in hopes of becoming serious contenders for the Stanley Cup. Despite significant back pain, Lemieux scored 16 goals and 28 assists for the playoff lead, and led the Penguins over the Minnesota North Stars for their first Stanley Cup. Lemieux won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs.
The 1991-92 season saw another injury-plagued campaign, although Lemieux managed to play 64 games. Despite missing several games, he won his third Art Ross Trophy with 131 points. During the second game of the Patrick Division finals, the New York Rangers' Adam Graves slashed and broke Lemieux's left hand; Lemieux missed five games, but still led the playoffs with 16 goals and 18 assists. The Penguins swept the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final, and Lemieux won his second Conn Smythe Trophy.
The Penguins started the 1992-93 season well, and Lemieux set an NHL record with at least one goal in twelve consecutive games, from October 6 to November 1. He was on pace to challenge Gretzky's records of 92 goals in one season (1981-82) and 215 points in one season (1985-86), until January 12, 1993, when he made the shocking announcement that he had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. He was forced to undergo energy-draining radiation treatments, leaving his career and possibly his survival in doubt. He missed two months of play, and without him, the Penguins struggled. When he returned, he was 12 points behind Buffalo's Pat LaFontaine in the scoring race.
On the day of his last radiation treatment, Lemieux flew to Philadelphia to play against the Flyers, where he scored a goal and an assist in a 5-4 loss. After the game Lemieux earned a standing ovation from Philadelphia fans — a rare occurrence for a visiting player. With Lemieux back, Pittsburgh won an NHL record 17 consecutive games to finish first overall for the first time in franchise history; their 119 points are still a franchise record. Lemieux scored at an incredible pace, notching an average 2.67 points per game — the third highest points-per-game for a season, behind only Wayne Gretzky's 1983-84 and 1985-86 averages of 2.77 and 2.69, respectively. Lemieux won his second straight and fourth overall scoring title, finishing with 160 points (69 goals, 91 assists) in 60 games, beating out LaFontaine by 12 points.
The Penguins dispatched the New Jersey Devils in the first round in five games, but lost to the New York Islanders in seven. After the season, Lemieux was awarded his second Pearson Trophy, and his first Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, given to the player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.
On July 23, 1993, Lemieux underwent his second back surgery, this time to repair a herniated muscle. He missed the first ten games of the season to recover from surgery, and missed 48 more games from back problems. After the season, he announced that he would take a leave of absence because of fatigue brought on by his radiation treatment. Lemieux returned for the 1995-96 season, and on October 29, 1995, he scored his 500th career goal in his 605th game, played against the New York Islanders. Lemieux was second only to Gretzky, who scored 500 goals in 575 games. Lemieux finished the season with 69 goals and 92 assists to lead the league; he became the seventh player to win three Hart Trophies, and the fourth player to win five Art Ross Trophies. Despite his return, the Penguins fell to the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference Final in seven games.
The next season, Lemieux, playing against the Vancouver Canucks, scored his 600th career goal in his 719th game, and then won his sixth Art Ross Trophy with 122 points (50 goals, 72 assists) and earned his tenth career 100-point season. Once again, Lemieux finished second only to Wayne Gretzky, who finished with 15 100-point seasons, and scored 600 goals in 718 games. In his last game against his hometown Montreal, Lemieux tied an NHL record for most goals in a period, with four goals in the third. The Penguins qualified for the playoffs again, but lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in five games in the first round. Lemieux scored one goal and earned an assist in his final game, played in Philadelphia. After the game, he skated around the ice and received a standing ovation from the Philadelphia crowd. That summer, Lemieux was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, becoming the ninth player in history to have the mandatory three-year waiting period waived.
Through most of the 1990's, the Pens' owners badly mismanaged the team. As a consequence of the team's free-spending ways earlier in the decade, the Penguins asked many of its big-name players to defer their salaries; the players, including Lemieux, obliged in order to stay in Pittsburgh. This forced General Manager Craig Patrick to make many personnel moves that were widely criticized by fans. It only later came out that the owners' poor financial management was the real culprit, when the team went into bankruptcy.
At this point, Lemieux stepped in with an unusual proposal. Years of deferred salaries had made him one of the Penguins' largest creditors. He sought to recover this money by converting it into equity and buying the team. He also promised to keep the team in Pittsburgh. On September 3, 1999, a U.S. Bankruptcy Court approved Lemieux's reorganization plan to save the Penguins. This made the then-retired star, who had deferred millions in salary, the first former NHL player to become majority owner of his former team.
Part of the reason the court had accepted Lemieux's plan was because it was designed to pay everyone the organization owed, a feat that would be rare if it happened. In August of 2005, the Post-Gazette reported that the Penguins had indeed fully paid the principal it owed to each of its creditors, both secured and unsecured. Lemieux was given much of the credit, according to the article, for his insistence that everyone owed be paid.
Lemieux became president, chairman of the board and CEO of the Penguins. He has since relinquished the president's and CEO's posts to Ken Sawyer, but remains the team's principal owner. In January 2006, Lemieux confirmed the team was for sale, but would consider offers only from those who will keep the team in Pittsburgh.
Lemieux recorded an assist 33 seconds into his first shift of his return. Lemieux proved that his scoring touch had not disappeared by scoring a goal and three points. He was named captain of the North American All-Stars during the midseason All-Star game in Denver, Colorado. Despite playing in only 43 games in 2000-2001, Lemieux scored 76 points to finish 26th in scoring, finishing the season with the highest points-per-game average that season among NHL players.
Lemieux was one of the three finalists for the Hart Memorial Trophy and Lester B. Pearson NHLPA awards and earned a selection on the postseason NHL All-Star Second Team.
Lemieux led the Penguins in the postseason and led in playoff scoring for much of it. His team surprised many by going to the Eastern Conference finals, knocking off the higher-seeded Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres along the way in six and seven games, respectively. The Penguins lost in five games to the New Jersey Devils.
Lemieux was limited due to injuries during his last four regular seasons, playing in only 24 games in 2001-02 and ten games during the 2003-04 season. In 2002-03, Lemieux led the NHL in scoring for most of the season but missed most of the games towards the end of the schedule and finished eighth in scoring with 92 points in only 67 games. However, Pittsburgh plummeted to the bottom of the NHL and missed the playoffs in each of those three seasons. Lemieux skipped some Penguins games in order to play in what would be the first chance at the Olympics in his career.
At the 2002 Winter Olympics, Lemieux led the Canadian men's team into Salt Lake City, United States as captain. The team had failed to win a gold medal at the Olympics in fifty years but were still considered favorites to win.
Lemieux was second in team scoring with six points in five games, and led the team to gold by defeating the United States 5-2 in the final game. The gold medal secured Lemieux's legacy and helped endear himself to the hockey community with such a selfless performance. His hip injury required several painkilling injections to keep him on the ice during the Olympics.
Lemieux's unique status as player and owner placed him in a potential conflict of interest with respect to NHL labor negotiations. Because he was also an owner, Lemieux was no longer a member of the National Hockey League Players Association, although he still paid union dues to maintain his pension.
By agreement with the NHLPA, Lemieux was paid the average league salary of about $1.4 million and it was from this amount that his union dues are calculated and deducted. He did not vote in owners' meetings, delegating this role to a Penguins vice-president.
He appeared to have sided with the league on key collective bargaining agreement issues and suggested that the NHL adopt a salary structure similar to the National Football League, which has a hard salary cap. Lemieux and fellow team owner Gretzky brought the parties together in a last-ditch effort to avoid the lockout, but the meeting failed.
As a player, Lemieux was represented by agent Steve Reich of Pittsburgh, who handled all of Lemieux's marketing through his agency, Reich Publishing and Marketing.
After the lockout concluded, Lemieux returned to the ice for the 2005-2006 season. Hopes for the Penguins were high due to the salary cap and revenue sharing, which enabled the team to compete in the market for several star players. Another reason for optimism was the Penguins winning the lottery for the first draft pick, enabling them to select Sidney Crosby. Lemieux opened up his home to Crosby to help the rookie settle in Pittsburgh and Lemieux also served as Crosby's mentor.
On January 24, 2006, Mario Lemieux announced his second and permanent retirement from professional hockey at the age of 40. This followed a half-season in which he struggled not only with the increased speed of the "new NHL" but also with yet another threatening physical ailment, a heart condition called atrial fibrillation that caused him to experience irregular heartbeats.
Although he had put up points at a pace that most NHL forwards would be perfectly content with (22 points in 26 games) in his last season, Lemieux still remarked that "I can no longer play at a level I was accustomed to in the past" – a reflection of the fact that he was a player in a class of his own, for whom incredible performances were routine.
In October 2006, Lemieux's ownership group announced that it had reached an agreement to sell the Penguins to Research in Motion Chairman and Co-CEO Jim Balsillie. However, Balsillie unexpectedly rescinded his agreement two months later after an apparent dispute with the NHL Board of Governors over purchasing conditions , leaving ownership of the Penguins still in the Lemieux group's hands.
On March 13, 2007, Lemieux's ownership group announced a final agreement for a new multi-purpose arena to be built across the street from the current Mellon Arena. The deal will keep the Penguins in Pittsburgh for at least 30 years. Lemieux was instrumental in negotiating this deal, despite efforts to move the team to Kansas City.
Template:Weasel Some consider Lemieux to be the most dominating hockey player ever.  Unlike Wayne Gretzky, whose greatness was due to his reading of the game and timely anticipation of players when passing (physically, Gretzky was not impressive, not being a fast skater or possessing a hard shot), Lemieux was big, strong, and skillful and was cited as often having a unique combination of the three attributes. Lemieux was able to successfully meld grace with aggression and played with a tough streak that had other players in fear of a physical encounter with the forward who was the size of a defenseman. Fans and other hockey players have speculated that had he been healthy for his whole career, his achievements would have been much greater.
Lemieux was raised by his stay-at-home mother, and his father, who was a construction worker. Lemieux married Nathalie Asselin on June 26, 1993. They have four children: Lauren, Stephanie, Austin, and Alexa. Austin was born prematurely, weighing just 2 pounds, but he is perfectly healthy today. The family lives in the affluent Pittsburgh suburb of Sewickley.
His most prolific nicknames given to him by the media are "Le Magnifique","Football Cream","Super Mario" (in reference to Mario), and "The Magnificent"; his surname, "le mieux" also literally means "the best" in French. His teammates simply referred to him as "Ace". Mario Lemieux is the youngest of three sons of Jean-Guy Lemieux and Pierrette Lemieux. He was born on the same day as Patrick Roy, in the same Canadian province, just 200 miles apart.
Lemieux created the "Mario Lemieux Foundation" in 1993, the same year he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. The main objective of the Foundation is to fund promising medical research projects being conducted by scientists.
Additionally, the Lemieux Foundation supports other organizations such as the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the Leukemia Society, the Lupus Foundation and the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Lemieux played for Canada in the 1983 World Junior Championships, 1985 World Championships, 1987 Canada Cup (gold medal), 2002 Winter Olympics (captain, gold medal) and the 2004 World Cup of Hockey (captain, gold medal).
|Senior int'l totals||29||18||21||39||12|
He won the NHL rookie of the year award, six Art Ross Trophies, the NHL's single-season points award, and his number, 66, has been retired by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
|Pittsburgh Penguins first-round draft picks|
|Rexe • Swain • Polis • Stoughton • Larouche • Laxton • Chapman • Bullard • Sutter • Errey • Lemieux • Bodger • Belanger • Simpson • Zalapski • Joseph • Shannon • Heward • Jagr • Naslund • Straka • Bergkvist • Wells • Morozov • Hillier • Dome • Kraft • Koltsov • Orpik • Armstrong • Whitney • Fleury • Malkin • Crosby • Staal • Esposito|
|National Hockey League first overall draft picks|
Monahan • Gauthier • Veilleux • Gibbs • Pagnutti • Plasse • Houle • Perreault • Lafleur • Harris • Potvin • Joly • Bridgman • Green • McCourt • Smith • Ramage • Wickenheiser • Hawerchuk • Kluzak • Lawton • Lemieux • Clark • Murphy • Turgeon • Modano • Sundin • Nolan • Lindros • Hamrlík • Daigle • Jovanovski • Berard • Phillips • Thornton • Lecavalier • Štefan • DiPietro • Kovalchuk • Nash • Fleury • Ovechkin • Crosby • Johnson • Kane • Stamkos
|EA Sports NHL Cover Athletes|
|'94: Ray Bourque, Clark Donatelli, Andy Moog & Tomas Sandström •
'95: Kirk McLean& Alexei Kovalev • '96: Scott Stevens & Steve Yzerman • '97: John Vanbiesbrouck • '98: Peter Forsberg • '99: Eric Lindros • '00: Chris Pronger • '01: Owen Nolan • '02: Mario Lemieux • '03: Jarome Iginla • '04: Dany Heatley • '04: Joe Sakic • '05: Markus Näslund • '06: Vincent Lecavalier • '07: Alexander Ovechkin • '08: Eric Staal