Mario Lemieux will forever be remembered for his incredible feats of skill, agility and power on the ice. He won numerous National Hockey League awards, including six scoring titles and three Most Valuable Player awards. But what hockey fans may recall most fondly is Mario’s courage in his fight against Hodgkin’s disease in the middle of the 1992-93 season.
In January 1993, Mario was enjoying the greatest season of his brilliant career, and was on pace to establish a new NHL scoring record. Then he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s. On the morning of March 2, 1993, Mario finished his last radiation treatment, took a plane to Philadelphia, and scored a goal and an assist against the Flyers. He picked up his level of play right where it had been before his illness, and led his team 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.
Mario took the 1994-95 season off to recuperate from a nagging back injury and fatigue. Many thought he would never play again, but Le Magnifique came back to win his fifth NHL scoring title, his third Hart Trophy and his fifth NHL First-Team All-Star selection in 1995-96. In 1996-97, Mario again won the scoring title and was named an NHL First-Team All-Star.
From 1984 to 1997, Mario Lemieux was the heart and soul of the Pittsburgh Penguins. His natural ability and desire to succeed make him the greatest all-around player in the game. In 1997, Mario was unanimously inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, without having to wait the customary three years after retirement. In November 1997, the number 66 was raised to the rafters of Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh.
In 1999, Mario formed an ownership group to purchase the Penguins and save them from possible relocation out of Pittsburgh. He served as Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer while the team was reorganized. He is currently the Penguins principal owner and Chairman of the Board. He was instrumental in helping the Penguins secure a deal with state and local officials to build CONSOL Energy Center, which would become the new home of the Pens in 2010.
In December of 2000, Mario Lemieux announced his return to the ice after three years of retirement and helped the Penguins to the Eastern Conference Finals. Mario played parts of four more seasons with the Penguins until he made his final retirement from the game of hockey in January of 2006.
Mario fulfilled a lifelong dream in February of 2002 when he led the Canadian Olympic hockey team to its first gold medal since 1952. In one of the most exciting and unforgettable hockey tournaments ever, Mario scored six points including a two-goal performance in the preliminary round against the Czech Republic. Canada defeated the United States 5-2 in the gold medal game.
When the Pittsburgh Penguins won their third Stanley Cup Championship in 2009, Mario became the only person to ever win the Stanley Cup as both a player and owner. In 2016 and 2017, the Penguins won back-to-back Championships for the second time in franchise history, putting Mario’s name on the Stanley Cup five times.