On January 12, 1993, Mario Lemieux shocked the hockey community when he announced he had been diagnosed with cancer. At just 27-years old, Mario stepped away from the game to undergo radiation treatments for Hodgkin’s disease, now known as Hodgkin’s lymphoma, after an enlarged lymph node was removed from his neck.
It was just two months later that Mario finished his last radiation treatment, took a plane to Philadelphia, and scored a goal and an assist against the Flyers. He led the Penguins to a 17-game winning streak and the best regular-season record in the NHL. Along the way, he earned his fourth scoring title and second Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player.
Watch Mario’s press conference, reaction from teammates and his return below, courtesy of the NHL.
Mario’s cancer diagnosis and treatment would inspire him to create the Mario Lemieux Foundation that same year, so patients and families facing the same frightening battle would have the best care possible. His wife, Nathalie, would later establish Austin’s Playrooms in 1996 after their son Austin spent 71 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Now, 30 years later, the Mario Lemieux Foundation has gifted over $37 million to cancer research and patient care, has established 43 Austin’s Playrooms (and counting) across the country, and has helped over 1.5 million patients and families. Because of Mario’s vision, several institutes have been established in the Pittsburgh community to help those facing cancer including the Mario Lemieux Center for Blood Cancers, Immunotherapy Center, Lymphoma Center and Institute for Pediatric Cancer Research.
While Mario started this project back in 1993, it is donors like you that have helped us sustain and grow our programs throughout the years. Over the next year, we will be looking back and recognizing the amazing works of the Foundation, the supporters who made them possible and those directly impacted by them.
Whether you have been impacted by a Lemieux Foundation program, have participated in events, or are just a supporter of our mission – we want to hear from you! We’ll be featuring donors, patients and partners all year long in celebration of all we’ve accomplished TOGETHER in the past 30 years. Please click here to submit your story.