Mario Lemieux was simply astonishing. He’s considered one of the best players ever, and some even claim he was the best. He’s not the all-time goalscorer or assister, but during his career, he had trouble with injuries and sickness, and he rarely played a full season.
Lemieux had to sit out several seasons, but every time he returned, he was an unstoppable force, and for so many years, he was the face of the franchise in Pittsburgh.
Mario Lemieux was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame immediately after retiring for the first time, waiving the normal three-year waiting period. Lemieux was the savior of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and even Wayne Gretzky has praised him as one of the greatest of all time.
Bobby Orr called him the most talented player he’d ever seen, and when you’re speaking of the greatest players of all time, the discussion often figures around him and Wayne Gretzky.
Mario Lemieux was also a great person outside the ice, and he could often be hilarious.
When NHL insider Elliotte Friedman was a guest on the podcast ”Thats Hockey Talk” last year, he shared an awesome story of an awkward meeting with Lemieux, where Friedman made a big fool of himself.
”There’s witnesses to this who saw it happen,” Friedman said.
”We’re at the All-Star Game the year it was in LA, and they named the hundred greatest players. So in LA, there’s an elevator that goes down from the press box level to the ice level, and I was on it with Nick Kypreos, Mario Lemieux, and one of the Penguins’ minority owners.
”So we got out of the elevator on the ice level, and we were going to the dressing rooms. Mario did not have his credential with him. In most places, this would not matter. But the person, the user, or the attendant or whatever, he was there, and I don’t have any problem with this because they’re doing their jobs. They are told, especially on All-Stars weekend, there are a lot of hangers-on don’t let people in who don’t have passes. But he didn’t know who Mario Lemieux was.
”He let Nick in, and he let the minority owner of the Penguins in, but he wouldn’t let Mario in. So I think, ’Okay, I’m going to solve this problem right here.’ So I told him, ’Sir if I just could speak up on his behalf. This is like the second greatest player ever.’ And Mario turned and looked at me and went, ’Second!? Behind who!?’
”Kipper has a big belly laugh, and he just died. He like ran to tell everybody this story to everyone.”