There will never be anyone like Mario Lemieux again. Arguably the second-best player in hockey history and the face of the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise for so many years, he had a tough time with injuries and ill-health throughout his career.
He still managed to win two Stanley Cups, the Hart Trophy three times, the Art Ross six times, and the Conn Smythe twice.
It’s wild to think about how many points Lemieux could’ve scored if he stayed healthy, but he still ranks second in points-per-game average, only behind Wayne Gretzky.
Unfortunately, Lemieux only played in 70 or more games in a season six times and only twice after turning 25. Lemieux also retried twice due to health issues, first in 1997 and then a second final time in 2006.
He was battling lymphoma in 1997 but made a stunning comeback three and a half years later, and it didn’t take long for him to be the best player in the world again.
And that accomplishment is something that Jaromir Jagr feels very few people in all of sporting history could’ve done.
”How many professional players, it doesn’t have to be hockey, can take three and a half years off, come back and practice for three months, and dominate? He played 40 games, and he had 80 points,” Jagr said on the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast, also mentioning Michael Jordan as one player who actually could pull it off.
Mario Lemieux had a remarkable ability to always perform, no matter the circumstances. Jaromir Jagr remembers a game in the ’90s when Mario Lemieux and his wife had just had their baby, Austin. He was born premature, so Mario stayed at the hospital for three games.
”I remember when Austin was born, and Mario was in the hospital for three days. He didn’t sleep, he was just there. And we play St. Louis that night, and Mario came for the game. He still had the hospital bracelet, and I said, ’Hey, keep it. It’s good luck for you.’”
Mario Lemieux took Jaromir Jagr’s advice. He let the hospital bracelet on under his glove, and things turned out … okay.
”He kept it on and he scored five goals. He didn’t sleep for three days, he still scored five goals.”
Not only that. Mario Lemieux, in his first game since having Austin, and with few hours of sleep for several days ahead, scored five goals and also had two assists.
“Tonight was very special,” said Lemieux postgame. “I was ready to play early. I felt very good and everything went in for me. I could have had a couple more. A night like that doesn’t happen too often.”