Mario Lemieux Essay, Research Paper
Dec. 5, 2000
Mario Lemieux was one of the best hockey players to ever play the game, if not the best. He started playing organized hockey at the age of five. By the time he was twelve years old, he was drawing standing room only crowds while playing for Ville Emard. Lemieux would go on to rewrite the record books for the Laval Voisins of the Quebec Major Junior hockey league. In 1984 Lemieux was taken first overall in the NHL entry draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins. During his fourteen-year career, Lemieux had many triumphs and adversities. Lemieux over came a bout with cancer and years of nagging back problems, to become one of the greatest hockey players over. He also saved the team from leaving the city due to bankruptcy in 1997. Lemieux is not only one of the greatest hockey players ever, he is also the savior of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Lemieux was born and raised in Montreal Quebec. In Canada hockey is just not a sport, but a way of life. When Lemieux was five years old his mother took him to the rink just minutes from his house. This is where he learned how to skate. Lemieux?s mother remembers the first time he stepped on the ice. ?When he stepped on the ice for the first time, he used a chair to balance himself. He used the chair for ten minutes; after that he skated without the chair.? (Lemieux 13.) While the other kids where using the chairs to skate, Lemieux was skating without the aid of a chair. Perhaps it was a sign of greatness. Lemieux began to play organized hockey at the age of six. When Lemieux wasn?t playing organized hockey he was playing against his two older bothers and the neighborhood kids at the rink near his house. Lemieux went through a daily rititual of ?playing hockey for four to five hours a day, then he would go home and do homework.? (Lemieux 14.) They say practice makes perfect, you would have to believe its true in Lemieux?s case.
In 1981, Lemieux was drafted by the Lavel Voisins of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. By the end of his first year Lemieux posted 30 goals and 66 assists, in 64 games. Those where some pretty impressive numbers for a young seventeen year old, who was playing against kids in there twenties. During Lemieux?s second season of juniors he was quickly becoming one of the top prospects in the world. Lemieux began to draw scouts from every NHL team and standing room only crowds every time he stepped on the ice. At the end of his second year of juniors, Lemieux racked up 184 points to lead the league. In his final year of juniors Lemieux was on pace to rewrite the record books. ?In his last game of the season Lemieux needed 3 goals to pass his idol Guy Lafluer?s all time record for goals. He got six goals and five assists.? (Lemieux 38.) This record was a huge accomplishment for Lemieux. He finished the season with 133 goals and 282 points to lead the league for the second consecutive time. The next step for Lemieux was the National Hockey League.
In 1984 Lemieux was ranked as the top prospect by the NHL central scouting bureau. It would surprise nobody when the Pittsburgh Penguins took Lemieux with the first overall pick in the NHL entry draft. ?In Lemieux?s first game, his first shift, first shot, he got his first goal in the NHL. He beat Pete Peters of the Boston Bruins on a breakaway. (Lemieux 42.) It did not take long at all for Lemieux to live up to all the hype. On the play he scored his first goal he beat two all stars, first he stole the puck from Ray Bourque and then put the puck behind Pete Peters. Lemieux was named to the NHL?s midseason all-star game. He captured the MVP honors of the game by netting two goals, including the game winner. By the end of the season Lemieux won the Calder Trophy as the rookie of the year. He finished the season with ?43 goals and reached the 100-point mark on the final day of the season, only two players have ever got over 100 points in their first year.? (Lemieux 47.) Although Lemieux had a very successful year the Penguins continued to struggle. The Penguins finished dead last in their division. For the next two seasons Lemieux and the Penguins continued to get better game by game. Lemieux lead the team in scoring both years, but the Penguins still did not mange to make the playoffs.
In the summer of 1987 Lemieux played for team Canada, in the Canada Cup. This was an international tournament putting the best players in the world against each other. Team Canada made it to the finals after defeating the Czechosolokian team. In the finals Lemieux was on a line with Wayne Gretzky. Lemieux came up big for team Canada by scoring two consecutive game winning goals to defeat the Russians. Lemieux and Gretzky where unbelievable together. Lemieux lead the tournament with goals. Lemieux states ?this is where I learned to take my game to another level.? (Lemieux 55.) He also learned how to become a champion. This experience gave Lemieux the confidence he needed to lead the Penguins to a championship. Shortly after the Canada Cup, the NHL season started. Lemieux picked up right where he left off. He won his first scoring title in the NHL. Lemieux also won the Hart Memorial Trophy, as the leagues MVP. This was not enough to put the Penguins into the playoffs. The Penguins fell one point shy of making the playoffs, on the final day of the season.
In tHe 1989-90 season Lemieux had a career year. He set career highs with 85 goals and 199 points. Lemieux also went on to claim his second scoring title and league MVP. One of the most impressive things to happen that year was his scoring streak. ?The streak was the longest of his career, and second longest in NHL history behind Wayne Gretzky. The streak ended at 46 games because Lemieux back pain became too much.? (Lemieux 64.) The most important thing to happen was that the Penguins made it to the playoffs for the first time since Lemieux was drafted in 1984. In the first series the Penguins beat the New York Rangers in four straight games. The Penguins would go on to play the Philadelphia Flyers. The Penguins would lose in seven games to there cross-state rivals. In the series Lemieux ?scored five goals and had eight points to tie a NHL record for playoff goals and points.? (Lemieux 61.) By gaining playoff experience, Lemieux and the Penguins took one bigger step in trying to achieve a championship team.
In tHe July of 1990 Lemieux and the Penguins encounter what seemed to be a huge setback. Lemieux underwent back surgery to repair a herniated disk. Lemieux began skating and it appeared he would be ready for the start of the season but there was a problem. Just before the Penguins first preseason game, Lemieux began to have back pain once more. The next day ?he flew back to Pittsburgh for tests. The doctors discovered he had a rare back infection.? (Lemieux 69.) Lemieux went through back surgery one more time. After the surgery Lemieux was out for over half the season and the Penguins playoff hopes looked dim. Lemieux came back in January, and from that point on the Penguins built up momentum to help carry them into the playoffs.
When The 1990-91 playoffs rolled around, Lemieux and the Penguins where healthy and ready to go. In the first round of the playoffs, the Penguins breezed by the Washington Capitals. The Penguins just barely made it past the New Jersey Devils in seven games. They would go on to beat the Boston Bruins in six games to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Minnesota North Stars. Lemieux and the Penguins beat the North stars 8-0 in game six to win their first ever Stanley Cup. ?Lemieux lead the team in scoring and won the Conn Symth Trophy as the playoff MVP.? (Lemieux 74.) Lemieux and the Penguins would keep on rolling through the 1991-92 season as they defended their championship. The Penguins just made it by the Capitals in the first round. In the second round of the playoffs, Lemieux ?suffered a broken hand when he was slashed by Adam Graves in game 2 of the Rangers series.? (Lemieux 75.) Lemieux would came back in the following series to lead the Penguins towards their second consecutive cup as they rattled off 11 consecutive wins. Lemieux would once again win the Conn Symth Trophy. This would be the last time Lemieux would win the Stanley Cup his magnificent career.
In 1992-93 Lemieux and the Penguins where ready for another title defense. The team was playing great and Lemieux had a commanding lead in the scoring race. Then on January 12, 1993 tragedy strikes. ?Lemieux was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, a form of cancer.? (Lemieux 79.) With the diagnosis of cancer, Lemieux was determined to overcome it and make a full recovery. After two months of cancer treatment Lemieux was on the ice skating again. Lemieux came back the same day he received his last session of radiation treatment. Lemieux got a standing ovation from the Philadelphia Flyers fans. That night he scored a goal and also had an assist as the Penguins defeated the Flyers. Lemieux came back to ?win the scoring title and passed Pat LaFontaine who was 17 points ahead of Lemieux.? (Lemieux 84.) This accomplishment was unbelievable, Lemieux Fought through a devastating disease to comeback and take the Art Ross Trophy one more time. With Lemieux back the Penguins where ready for another run at the Stanley Cup. This time the Penguins could not get past the second round. The dynasty was over and Lemieux was simply exhausted, due to his cancer treatment.
In the 1993-94 season Lemieux only played 22 games due to reoccurring back problems and the after affects of cancer treatments. Because of this Lemieux decided to sit out the 1994-95 season to rest his injured back and regain his energy from the cancer treatments. When Lemieux came back for the 1995-96 season he was in perhaps the best shape of his life. He spent the off season lifting weights and building up his leg strength. Lemieux went on to have a great year. ?He went on to score 161 points as he beat out his teammate Jaromir Jagr.? (Lemieux 89.) Lemieux lead the Penguins to the conference finals where the Penguins would go on to lose to the Florida Panthers in overtime of game seven. This would be the closest Lemieux would ever come to winning the Stanley Cup again. In 1996-97 Lemieux almost decided to call it quits. Lemieux would comeback for one final season to try to bring back the Stanley Cup. Lemieux would go on to win the NHL scoring title for the sixth time in his career. He would also go on to achieve career milestones for goals with his 600th, and his 1400th point of his career. When the playoffs came around the Penguins had to play the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers would go on to win series in six games. ?Lemieux scored his last goal ever in game five at the civic arena on a breakaway.? (Lemieux 92.) This was a very emotional goal for Lemieux and all of the fans around the league, because nobody knew if it would be his last. With his career over what was Lemieux to do.
With The Pittsburgh Penguins in Financial trouble in 1998, ownership was looking to sell the team. The team was ready to be moved into another city or even be dissolved. With The Penguins owing large debts on their lease and to Lemieux himself, Lemieux began a movement to buy the team. With Lemieux having 25 million dollars owed to him by the organization he gathers a handful of investors to purchase the team. In 1998 ?Lemieux bought the Penguins for 70 million dollars along with other investors.? (Ozanian 92.) With Lemieux having his 25 million into the team he has the largest share in the team. Lemieux saved the team when he came here in 1984 and he has made let another save. The team seems to be in great hands with Lemieux in control. Lemieux ?hammered out a 9 million dollar a year TV contract. He also cut the overhead of the lease at the civic arena by 80 percent.? (Pedersen,Raymond 80.) In his second year as owner Lemieux has already made get progress. It will be just a matter of time before Lemieux becomes one of the top owners. It seems everything Lemieux does he succeeds.
When Lemieux came to Pittsburgh in 1984 everyone expected a great hockey player. The city did not only get a great hockey player; they got a get person. Lemieux gave his all for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Every time he stepped on the ice he played at a level that is unmatched. Lemieux did things on the ice that at times seemed impossible. He brought a great amount of excitement to the game of hockey. Now with Lemieux owning the franchise he is trying to make the Penguins Stanley Cup Champions. What does the future have in store for Lemieux? It appears Lemieux is going to attempt a comeback back into the NHL. On December 7 2000 the word of Lemieux making a comeback leaked out to the media. The next day Lemieux issued a statement that the Rumors are true and he does plan on returning to the Penguins lineup in late December. With the news of Lemieux?s return to the game, we can only hope for the best. Will he lead the Penguins to another Stanley Cup? Will he win the scoring title? And will he still be able to dominate the game like he did in the past? We can only wait and see what happens.
Nov. 28, 2000
Ozanian, Michel K. ?Mario Lemieux, Value Investor.? Forbes December 13,1999: Pg 92
Lemieux, Mario. The Final Period. Pittsburgh: Reich, 1997
Wigge, Larry. ?A New Game.? Sporting News February 22, 1999: Pg 40
Pederson, Daniel., and Raymond, Joan. Newsweek July 16, 1999: Pg 40