After the advent of Wayne Gretzky’s Edmonton Oilers in the NHL in the 1980’s, hockey fans everywhere we’re looking for the next player to take control as the top player in the league.
It had long been a Canadian player hoisted atop the league, from Rocket Richard to Gordie Howe to Bobby Orr to Wayne Gretzky. The NHL looks to the junior leagues to find their next stars, and out of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League came the league’s next superstar, Mario Lemieux.
Lemieux was drafted first overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1984. He was a highly touted prospect, having scored 562 points in three seasons of junior hockey. Lemieux was such a high profile prospect that there were rumors about teams tanking their season in order to secure the number one pick and draft him.
Lemieux made an impact right away. In his first career game, Lemieux scored a goal on his first career shot, a feat that showed early the great levels he would reach. Through his early years, Lemieux was a sole bright spot for the Penguins.
From early on, Lemieux became the first, but certainly not the last, to don the moniker, “The Next Gretzky.”
Mario Lemieux at the Canadian Walk of Fame Gala in Toronto
More importantly, Pittsburgh made the playoffs for the first time in 7 seasons and although they eventually lost in the second round, Lemieux made his mark as a playoff performer. He finished with 12 goals and 17 points in 11 games. On April 25, 1989, facing the Philadelphia Flyers, Lemieux set or tied several playoff records with his 5 goal, 8 point performance in a 10-7 Pittsburgh win.
Since the beginning, I always loved the game. When you grow up in Montreal, one day you want to be a professional hockey player. When I was six or seven, I knew that was what I wanted. – Mario Lemieux I think we have to show some pride in the jersey that we are wearing, and can’t quit. – Mario Lemieux Certainly we’re not satisfied with just winning games. We’ve been playing some pretty good […]
The Mario Lemieux Story … continued from the page 2 Following his retirement, the Penguins financial status fell into disrepair. After the Penguins filed for bankruptcy in 1999, Lemieux stepped in and bought a controlling interest in the team, keeping the organization alive. Shortly thereafter, in 2000, Lemieux returned from retirement to play in the NHL. He retained much of his skill through his time off, being selected as a finalist in 2001 for the […]
Despite a relentless series of medical set backs, including a well-publicized battle with cancer, Mario L emieux led the Pittsburgh Penguins to two Stanley Cups and won six NHL scoring titles before retiring in 1997 at the age of 31
Lemieux along with many other Canadian NHL stars like Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic helped lead the Canadian men’s hockey team to win the gold medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics. The Gold medal win ended a long drought and was the first Olympic gold hockey title for Canada in over fifty years.