How Mario Lemieux, with one brilliant gesture, saved a referee from getting bombarded with trash during game

He may not be The Great One, but Mario Lemieux isn’t far from being the absolute GOAT of hockey. He was known as Super Mario and played in the NHL for 17 seasons, and although he had problems with injuries almost every season of his career, he put up some incredible numbers.

He won the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP three times and the Art Ross Trophy six times. He scored 690 goals and 1033 assists in 915 games, and Wayne Gretzky only beat his points-per-game average. But Mario Lemieux wasn’t just a great player. He was a great leader as well.

Lemieux was the captain of the Pens for most of his career and had an excellent reputation with teammates, opponents, and even the referees. Don Van Massenhoven has a great example of why Lemieux was so well-liked.

Lemieux had just returned from a three-year-long retirement, and in his second game back, he scored. At least that’s what he–and everybody else–thought.

“I blew the whistle too quickly,” Van Massehoven said to Sportsnet. “I thought the goalie had it covered, but he didn’t. The puck squirted free, and Pittsburgh put it in the net.

The fans went crazy. They started throwing stuff on the ice. And that’s when Lemieux showed what a great guy he is.

“Mario, the gentleman he was — as fans are yelling and throwing stuff on the ice — he comes over and asks me what happened. I said, ‘I screwed up. I blew the whistle too quick.’ He said, ‘Well, I’ll stand here beside you until they stop throwing stuff.’ And they did. I couldn’t believe it.”

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