Le Magnifique. Super Mario. Mr. 66. Mario Lemieux is a Pittsburgh legend and hockey god, widely considered to be one of, if not THE best to ever play the game. Winning two Stanley Cups in back-to-back years gave Pittsburgh its first two championships since joining the inaugural class of NHL teams in 1967. Though Lemieux battled and beat his cancer diagnosis in the 1992-93 season, nagging injuries and fatigue eventually forced Lemieux to retire in 1997 after thirteen years in the league. But Super Mario’s time in the Steel City wasn’t over.
In 1999, Mario formed an ownership group to purchase the Penguins and save them from possible relocation out of Pittsburgh. As the new majority owner, Lemieux laced up his skates and took the ice once again, leaving retirement and becoming the first player-owner in the modern era of pro sports. Who can forget his assist to Jaromir Jagr’s goal, 33 seconds into his first shift back? After a few more partial seasons, Lemieux retired for good in 2006.
As a cancer survivor, Lemieux understood the immense health and emotional challenge one faces in the battle against cancer and decided to do something about it. He started the Lemieux foundation here in Pittsburgh to give back to the community that supported him throughout his career. To date, the foundation has committed over $30 million to cancer research and patient care initiatives in the Pittsburgh region and beyond. This past November, we were proud to partner with the foundation and offer proceeds of our “Pittsburgh Is Stronger Than Cancer” tee on this year’s Hockey Stronger Than Cancer Night.
While his championships, NHL records, and sheer talent gave Pittsburgh a hockey legend to believe in, Mario Lemieux’s legacy in Pittsburgh goes beyond the ice and reaches almost mythic proportions, fostering a new generation of players while supporting his Steel City fans.