- Height: 6' 4"
- Weight: 235 lbs.
- Date Of Birth: October 5, 1965
- Hometown: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
- Position: Center
- Shoots: Right
- Draft: first overall, Pittsburgh Penguins
Mario Lemieux could have called it quits and nobody would have doubted him. He had established himself as one of the greatest hockey players in history; there was hardly anything more he could accomplish or prove. In 1993, Lemieux was diagnosed with a form of Hodgkins Disease, a type of cancer. However, instead of hanging up his skates, Lemieux battled the cancer and not only survived, he also returned to the ice to continue playing the game he loved.
Lemieux was born on October 5, 1965 in Montreal, Quebec. He began his hockey career playing for the Laval Voisins of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) in 1981. He was nearly an instantaneous star, scoring 184 points in only his second season. Lemieux was even more impressive in his third year, scoring a Major Junior Hockey record 282 points and 133 goals in only 70 games. After only three years in the league he moved onto the NHL in 1984.
Lemieux was the first overall pick of the 1984 NHL Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins, and he spent all of his seventeen seasons in the NHL with the Penguins. He was an immediate success in the NHL, scoring the first goal of his career on the first shot of his career. This was the beginning to what turned out to be a very successful rookie campaign for Lemieux. He scored 100 points, received the Calder Trophy as the league’s Rookie of the Year, and became the only rookie in NHL history to be named MVP of the All-Star game. Over the next five seasons Lemieux piled up the points and the trophies. In 1985-86 his peers voted him the recipient of the Lester B. Pearson Award. In 1987-88, he won his first Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s top scorer and his first Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s MVP, and he scored a career high 199 points in 1988-89. Also in 1988-89, Lemieux led the Penguins for the first time to the playoffs. He suffered a back injury during the 1989-90 season that caused him to miss nearly all of the next season. However, that year the Penguins became title contenders, so Lemieux played through his pain in the playoffs and led his team to the first Stanley Cup title in team history. Despite his injury, Lemieux dominated the playoffs, and he received the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs’ MVP. Lemieux and the Penguins repeated the next year as NHL champions, and Lemieux became only the second player ever to win consecutive Conn Smythe Trophies.
The 1992-93 campaign started off strong, with Lemieux scoring at a torrid pace and the team playing well. Disaster struck in January of 1993 when Lemieux was told he had cancer. He underwent treatment and shocked the hockey world by returning to the Penguins before the season was over. He led the Penguins to a record 17 straight victories, and the Penguins finished the regular season in first place. However, the Penguins fell short in their quest for a third straight title as they were ousted in the second round. Lemieux played in only 22 games the following 1993-94 season, and decided to take the entire 1994-95 year off. He came back strong in 1995-96 by leading the NHL in scoring for the fifth time. Lemieux decided to retire after the 1996-97 season, when he led the NHL in scoring for the sixth and final time. He was immediately inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1997.
After retiring, Lemieux stayed in involved with the Penguins by becoming the team’s majority owner in 1999. Then, in 2000, he shocked the hockey world yet again by announcing he was returning to the ice as a player. He played for another five years for the Penguins, and also helped lead the Canadian national team to its first Olympic gold medal in 50 years at the 2002 Winter Games. He decided to hang up his skates for good in 2006 when he began experiencing an irregular heartbeat. Despite missing many games throughout his career due to injury and illness, Lemieux finished his NHL career with 1,723 total points, 1,033 assists, and 690 goals.
Career Highlights, Awards, and Accolades:
- Scored a QMJHL record 282 points in 1983-984.
- Won the Calder Memorial Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year in 1985.
- Six-time Art Ross Trophy winner as NHL’s leading scorer: 1988-89, 1992-93, and 1996-97.
- Three-time Hart Memorial Trophy winner as NHL’s MVP: 1988, 1993, and 1996.
- Four-time Lester B. Pearson Trophy winner: 1986, 1988, 1993, and 1996.
- Won two Stanley Cup Championships: 1991 and 1992.
- Won two Conn Smythe Trophy’s as playoff’s MVP: 1991 and 1992.
- Six-time NHL First Team All-Star: 1988, 1989, 1993, 1994, 1996 and 1997.
- Four-time NHL Second Team All-Star: 1986, 1987, 1992, and 2001.
- Three-time NHL All-Star Game MVP: 1985, 1988, and 1990.
- One of only three players in NHL history to have won the Ross, Hart, Calder, and Smythe Trophies.
- Won an Olympic gold medal with the Canadian national hockey team at the 2002 Winter Games.
- Won a gold medal at the 1987 Canada Cup.
- Won a gold medal with Canada at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.
- Scored a career high 199 points during the 1988-89 season.
- Pittsburgh Penguins’ all-time leader in points (1,723), goals (690), and assists (1,033).
- Holds numerous NHL regular season, All-Star Game, and playoff records.
- Was diagnosed with cancer in 1993 but overcame it to return to playing hockey the same season.
- Was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1997.