Mario Lemieux was special. He was drafted first overall in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft and entered the league with the Pittsburgh Penguins with high expectations. Lemieux was a generational talent, and he didn’t take long to show that to the world.
Lemieux led the Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships in 1991 and 1992, but he had performed at an elite level way before that. He ranks second in NHL history in goals-per-game average and history in assists-per-game average.
He’s also second in NHL history with a points-per-game average, and it’s amazing to think that Lemieux never played a full season. He only played in 70 or more games on six occasions, and although health problems plagued his career, he still dominated the ice every time he stepped onto it.
Lemieux wasn’t just a great player but a great leader as well. It didn’t come as a huge surprise when he became the owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and he’s the only man to have his name on the Cup both as a player and an owner.
Lemieux also showed ownership qualities as a player, and he always led the line he played in.
You can argue that every line he centered could be considered the Penguins’ best of all time. Lemieux played with many guys besides him, and the lines were always absolutely world-class. Many will always remember when he played with Rick Tocchet and Kevin Stevens and how the three of them just completely dominated their opponents.
But it wasn’t easy coming to Pittsburgh and suddenly playing with Mario Lemieux. He had strong beliefs on how hockey should be played; it didn’t matter how big of a name you were. Rick Tocchet recalls his first game playing with Lemieux after joining from Philadelphia. When he did something Mario didn’t like, he got to hear it.
”I think it was the first game together. If not, it was early in our time together. I dumped the puck in, and Mario gave me this look. A couple of shifts later, I dumped it in again, and Mario pulled up to me on the bench and said ’This isn’t Philly; we don’t dump the puck in Pittsburgh.’ He kind of smiled, but I knew him well enough to know he was serious. What he meant was I should try to make a play instead of just sending it in. That definitely was a wake-up call for me.”
What a legend!