The Magnificent One calls it quits after 17 remarkable seasons.
Mario Lemieux announced his retirement from the Penguins after undergoing a irregular heartbeat that has sidelined him since mid December. ”The time is right because I can no longer play the game at the level I’m accustomed to,” Lemieux said in making the announcement. ”I think the best decision is to retire as a player and turn the game over to the younger guys who are the future of this team and this league. It’s a young man’s game now.”
Lemieux was amazing on and off the ice despite the many obstacles he encountered. In the late 80’s and 90’s Super Mario surpassed Wayne Gretzsky as the greatest player in the game. Mario was a freak of nature standing at 6ft4 225 lbs. To go along with his big frame he had all the tools. Mario produced 3 M.V.P.’s 6 scoring titles and produced 2 Stanley Cups, 2 world cups and 1 Olympic gold medal for team Canada.
After winning back to back Stanley Cups the Penguins were on the verge of forming a dynasty. By the half way mark of the 92-93 season the Pens were the best team in the league, Super Mario had 104 points in 40 games and had a strong possibility at breaking Gretzsky’s single season record of 215 points. Then out of nowhere Lemieux was diagnosed with Hodgskins disease in January of 1993. A disease that killed one of his cousins in the past. After getting his last treatment, Mario jumped on a plane to Philly and returned to the ice the same day on March 2nd against the Flyers. He recorded 1 goal and 1 assists that night. Mario was determined, that nothing was going to stop him and he made a remarkable comeback regaining the scoring title and finishing the season with 169 pts despite missing over 25 games and being diagnosed with cancer. Can anyone say they ve seen a athlete being able to dominant his sport after having a serious injury or having cancer like he was able to do that year and beyond.
In 1997 Lemieux retired on top and on his terms. After winning another scoring title and leading the Pens to the playoffs. He had enough of the ” garage league” and that it was time to move on. In 1999 the franchise was on the verge of distinction after filing for bankruptcy. Mario was owed over 30 million dollars, so he decided to save the team for the second time, by buying the team and becoming the majority owner. Despite the franchises financial problems, the Penguins were still very competitive after coming one game from being in the Eastern Conference championship in 2000.
With the Penguins stockpiled with offense talent, Mario began thinking about a return and out of nowhere shocked the hockey world announcing that he will be making a comeback. On December 27, 2000 the magnificent one returned to the ice recording 1 goal and 2 assists. It was the most remarkable event I have ever seen. It was truly amazing. Mario finished that season with 35 goals, 41 assists and 76 points in just 43 games. He then went on to lead the Pens to the Eastern Conference championship before falling to the Devils in 5 games.
Mario’s second comeback I believe was successful. 2001 was a remarkable season for him the city and the team. The 01-02 season was a disappointment because of health reasons, but Mario came home with a gold medal. Not to many people can say that. In 2002-03 Mario had a very good season recording 91 points in 67 games. The last 20 games he was playing AHL players. That team was in posistion for a playoff berth in mid February before Craig traded away Kovalev. In 2004 Mario won a World Cup title, and it was obvious the last 2 or 3 games of that tournament Mario was the best player on the ice.
It’s a sad day for hockey to see the most dominant player in the history of the game call it a career. Mario deserved better than to go out like this, it’s disappointing to me that he didn’t get a Jerome Bettis kind of ending to his career. Mario never got as much credit as he should have from the national media, and it’s a shame because people who really know sports and were able to watch Mario on a regular basis know that he is one of the top 5 athlete’s of all time that were able to dominant a sport for such a long time like he did. He belongs to be in the same discussion as a Jordan, Woods, Gretzsky but it’s a shame that he never will be because the media only cares about career numbers. We will probaly never see another player like Lemieux ever again, a player able to dominant a sport night after night, year after year. Just think if he was 100% healthy most of his career, their wouldn’t be no discussion on who the greatest hockey player ever was. Before I sign off here, I just want to say Thank You Mario for all the great memories.
Mario finished his career with 690 goals , 1033 assists and 1733 points in 915 games played