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Mario the Magnificent
Mario the Magnificent
The world of sport is a mysterious thing. For those that are fans, it's strange how a simple game can enrich our lives and take us away for a few hours. Sports can touch emotions which otherwise start to atrophy and eventually grow dormant in some of us.
I find it more than just a little humorous that I don't cry during movies, at weddings, at funerals, or even during the birth of my child; yet I sometimes get choked up watching SportsCenter. I don't mean when my team loses, but some of the stories in sport seem to touch a nerve that nothing else does.
Such was the case today when the great Mario Lemeiux announced his retirement, again. After the press conference they showed the many highlights that accompany a career as astounding as Super Mario's was.
Lemieux's career started in 1984 when he started his rookie year playing for the Pittsburg Penguins. He scored his first goal as a professional just 29 seconds after stepping onto the ice for his first shift. It was telling of what was to come.
His was a career that was filled with injury and disappointment. Although his playing was always stellar, his health never let him become all that his talent promised. He was plagued with back problems throughout his career, often needing help to lace his own skates because the pain was so severe. Yet, he always gave his all and conducted himself with class.
I was a fan of his for as long as I can remember, even when his Penguins beat my beloved North Stars in the 1991 Stanley Cup Finals. A fitting end to a season that he missed most of after back surgery.
In 1992 he led the league in scoring and again won the Stanley Cup. The next year he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, missed a month getting radiation treatment, then came back and again led the league in scoring. He missed the entire 94-95 season recovering from Hodgkin's treatments and back problems. Then in 1997, the effects of his back problems too much, Mario retired. The NHL waived the three year waiting period and placed him in the Hall of Fame.
In 1999 Mario purchased the Pittsburg Penguins. The team was in shambles, and $120 million in debt. In 2000 he came out of retirement and single-handedly saved the franchise. Once again he dazzled us, getting an assist just 29 seconds after stepping on the ice. In 2002 he captained the Canadian Olympic team to a gold medal, an honor eluding the country for 50 years. Since then his career was once again plagued by injury problems, limiting his playing time.
Mario Lemeiux has done everything he can to ensure that the Penguins remain in Pittsburg, and the city owes him a debt of gratitude.
He stands in 7th place all-time in scoring. But one can only wonder were his place would be had he been healthy throughout his career. He is arguably the second greatest player to ever lace 'um up, behind Wayne Gretzky.
The sport will miss him. Mario, thanks for the memories.