Mario Lemieux, born October 5th 1965 in Montreal, Quebec
, is perhaps, and in my opinion, the greatest, but at minimum one of the greatest hockey players ever. Mario grew up with two brothers and a modest family life, his father being a construction worker and his mother a housewife. Mario competed local at first and practiced in his front lawn on a rink his father created for his family. He conquered every level of junior hockey. In 1983 he established a single season record in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League
(QMJHL) of 282. In 1984
Mario was drafted first pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins
. Mario’s first game was October 11th, 1984, against the Boston Bruins
. His rookie year he scored exactly 100 points and was named the NHL
’s Rookie of the Year.
During the 1985-86 season, Mario began earning much more than rookie awards. He earned his first of four Lester B. Pearson
awards, given to the league’s MVP as decided by the players. This was also the season that marked his first of many all-star appearances. The 1987-88 season Mario saw his first of three Hart
trophies (league MVP) and first of six Art Ross
trophies (top scorer). In the subsequent season, Mario earned his highest season score ever: 199. However, it was not until the 1990-91 season that Mario led the Penguins
to Stanley Cup
victory over the Minnesota North Stars
. That season Mario was named playoff MVP and received the Conn Smythe
trophy. This was repeated the next season when the Penguins took the cup from the Chicago Blackhawks
and again Mario earned the Conn Smythe
trophy. Amidst all this victory came 1993.
In January of 1993 Mario Lemieux was diagnosed with a form of Hodgkin’s disease
, a treatable type of cancer. Regardless of the immediate radiation therapy, Mario kept stressing he would be back before the end of the season. Upon ending of his treatment on March 2nd, Mario returned to the ice that same day scoring a goal and an assist. In the 20 games that remained Mario earned 56 points. He also gained the Art Ross
trophies. In light of all these developments came June.
On June 26th, 1993, Mario Lemieux married Nathalie Asselin
. This was followed by two years of injury-laden hockey. The 1993-94 season saw little play due to back problems and he sat out the entire 1994-95 season with the same continued injuries. Then the come back of 1995-96 appeared and Mario was back in the game. He gained 161 points in 70 games and chalked up another Art Ross
trophy. Finally the game became too much and Mario decided to retire at the end of the 1996-97 season. His last game was on April 26th, 1997 against the Philadelphia Flyers
. November 17th of the following season Mario was inducted into the hall of fame and his number, 66
, was retired. No one saw that Mario was destined to return.
From the time of his retirement, Mario did not sever ties with the Penguins
. In response to the teams financial problems, Mario took the salary still owed him and gathered investors to, in effect, buy the team. As the new owner, Mario laced up and returned to the Penguins
. On December 8th, 2000, hockey was changed again (and I had a reason to start watching again) when Mario Lemieux returned to the ice playing for Pittsburgh
once again. He scored one goal and two assists his first game back. He still plays to this day, though not as frequently, to a level that has always been expected out of the player legendary for his aggressive forward skating: the legend that is Mario Lemieux.
Resources include NHL.com, askmen.com, allsports.com, and my vast knowledge of the legend Mario Lemieux.