Hockey Biography of Mario Lemieux

Mario Lemieux Biography

Injury problems continueMario Lemieux Biography

Lemieux missed most of the 1993-94 season and skipped the NHL’s lockout-shortened season of 1994-95 recovering from chronic back pain, back surgery and the effects of radiation treatment, casting doubt on his intention to play again.

1995-96 season

Lemieux announced his return to the NHL late in the summer of 1995 and won his fifth Art Ross Trophy, leading the league in goals (69), points (161), power-play goals (31) and shorthanded goals (8) despite playing in only 70 games. He easily won his third Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s MVP and his Pens made it to the Eastern Conference Final before falling to Florida in 7 games.

1996-97 season

Lemieux again won the scoring title during the 1996-97 season amid speculation that this would be his final season. In his last game in his hometown of Montreal, Lemieux tied a NHL record of scoring 4 goals in a period. His team made the playoffs again but lost to Philadelphia in 5 games. Lemieux scored on his final shift in his last home game of the playoffs and two nights later added another as Lemieux was given a standing ovation by the Philadelphia fans as he bid farewell to the NHL due to his various injuries suffered over his career. That same summer Lemieux was immediately inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, becoming the 9th player in history to have the mandatory 3 year waiting period waived.

Retirement and Return

On September 3, 1999, a U.S. Bankruptcy Court approved Lemieux’s reorganization plan to save the Penguins from bankruptcy. Lemieux bought the team to help recover unfulfilled contractual payments by former Penguins owners and to keep the team in Pittsburgh, making the then-retired star, who deferred millions in salary he was owed, the first former player to become majority owner of his former team. He is also chairman of the board, CEO, and president.

Late in 2000, rumors were abound that Lemieux was attempting a comeback and on December 27 of that year he returned to the NHL. In his first game, he got an assist 33 seconds into his first shift. He was named captain of the North American All-Stars during the midseason All-Star game in Denver, Colorado. Despite playing in little more than half the Penguins’ games in 2000-2001, Lemieux scored more points (76) than over 90% percent of the rest of the league’s players to finish 26th in scoring, finishing the season with the highest points-per-game average that season among NHL players. Lemieux was one of the three finalists for the Hart Memorial Trophy and Lester B. Pearson NHLPA awards and earned a selection as Centre on the postseason NHL All-Star Second Team.

Although Jaromir Jagr was still officially captain of the Penguins for the entire 2000-2001 season, many fans acknowledged Lemieux as the team leader. Lemieux led the Penguins in the postseason and was atop the NHL in playoff scoring for much of it, knocking off the higher-seeded Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres in six and seven games respectively to make it to the NHL Conference finals. Despite losing to the New Jersey Devils in five games, this marked the Penguins’ best playoff finish since their last Stanley Cup win in 1992.

Lemieux was limited due to injuries during the last 3 regular seasons, playing in only 24 games in 2001-02 and 10 games during the 2003-04 season. In 2002-03, Lemieux led the NHL in scoring for most of the season but missed most of the games towards the end of the schedule and finished eighth in scoring with 92 points in only 67 games. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh plummeted to the bottom of the NHL and missed the playoffs in each of those 3 seasons.

As the Captain of the Canadian men’s Olympic gold-medal hockey team in 2002, Lemieux was second in scoring on the team with 6 points in 6 games.

Lemieux’s unique status as player and owner has placed him in a potential conflict of interest with respect to NHL labour negotiations. Because he is also an owner, Lemieux is no longer a member of the National Hockey League Players Association, although he still pays union dues to maintain his pension. By agreement with the NHLPA, Lemieux is paid the average league salary of about $1.4 million and it is from this amount that his union dues are calculated and deducted. By agreement with the league’s other owners, he does not vote in owners’ meetings, delegating this role to a Penguins vice president. Lemieux appears to have sided with the league on key collective bargaining agreement issues and suggested that the NHL adopt a salary structure similar to the National Football League, which has a salary cap.

Mario Lemieux, considered by many to be the most talented hockey player ever, often finds his name mentioned in the top 5 hockey players of all-time and his numbers and resume do not dispute that sentiment. He never played a full season in the NHL without missing a game so one can only speculate how much more impressive his offensive numbers would be if he had not missed over 400 games due to injury and illness.

Lemieux married his teenage sweetheart Nathalie Asselin on June 26, 1993. They have 4 children: Lauren, Stephanie, Austin, and Alexa. He resides with his family in the affluent Pittsburgh suburb of Sewickley, Pennsylvania. Lemieux has a tradition of opening his home to young Penguin players such as Marc-Andre Fleury and Sidney Crosby until they settle into the Pittsburgh area.