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Mario Lemieux: becoming magnificent

media clip
"I'm trying to put into people's minds that I can be one of the best that ever played the game," 23-year-old Mario Lemieux modestly asserts. It's January 1989 and the young star is on his way to earning a lofty moniker: Mario the Magnificent. Lemieux is in the midst of the best season ever seen by anyone not named Gretzky. By season's end, he would tally 199 points with 85 goals and 114 assists.

Already established as a young superstar, Lemieux is becoming one of the game's all-time elite players. And as we see in this clip, Lemieux has some kind words for Wayne Gretzky, the man whose point record he is chasing: "He's my idol. He's been my idol for a lot of years."

• In 1989 (the year this clip was broadcast) Mario Lemieux's Pittsburgh Penguins made the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons. Though they missed the post-season a year later, they became back-to-back Stanley Cup champions in the following two campaigns.

• The highlight of Lemieux's season came on New Year's Eve when he became the first player in NHL history to score a goal five different ways in the same game: at even strength, on the power play, shorthanded, on a penalty shot and into an empty net.

• Unlike the smaller Gretzky, Lemieux could dominate physically. The six foot four inch, 235-pound Lemieux scored many of his goals with opponents literally on his back.

• In his 17 seasons, all with the Penguins, Lemieux won two Stanley Cups, three Hart Trophies as the NHL's most valuable player, six Art Ross Trophies as its leading scorer and two Conn Smyth Trophies as playoff MVP. The Montreal native also helped Canada win two World Cups of Hockey (one while it was called the Canada Cup) and an Olympic gold medal.

• These lofty marks were attained despite the fact that his career was marred by ailments, especially Hodgkin's lymphoma, that forced him to miss 513 of a potential 1,428 regular season games.

• Lemieux's ailments also included spinal disc herniation, chronic tendinitis, tendinitis of a hip flexor muscle, and chronic back pain. In fact, he twice retired because of failing health.

• In 1999, Lemieux was sidelined again when he bought the beleaguered Penguins out of bankruptcy and became their principal owner and chairman of the board. Still, he would not permanently retire until part way through the 2005-06 season.

• He was busy that year molding a young Sidney Crosby into a superstar. In fact, after Crosby was drafted first overall by the Penguins in 2005, he came to live in the Lemieux home.

• The Hockey Hall of Famer is also a member of Canada's Walk of Fame. In 1998, Lemieux was ranked number four on The Hockey News' list of the greatest hockey players. He was the highest-ranking French-Canadian player, besting even Maurice Richard.

Medium: Television
Program: Midday
Broadcast Date: Jan. 23, 1989
Guest(s): Mario Lemieux
Announcer: Whit Fraser
Interviewer: Valerie Pringle
Duration: 7:00

Last updated: May 3, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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