Tuesday, September 22, 2009

2001-02 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Mario Lemieux Jersey

On this date in 2001, Mario Lemieux played his one and only game in the minor leagues.

Lemieux suited up for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in an exhibition game in Wilkes-Barre versus their parent club, the Pittsburgh Penguins, which Pittsburgh won by a score of 4-2.

"I'll have to ask the coach what I did wrong," Lemieux joked.

Wikes-Barre team president Jeff Barrett said that the idea was a nice way to reward the minor league team's fans.

"I think it's going to be exciting to see me in a different uniform," said Lemieux. "I always wondered what it would be like to play against the Penguins. I'll have my chance on Saturday."

Lemieux wore three jerseys that night, one each period, which were then auctioned off for charity with the proceeds being donated to various charitable causes, including the Twin Towers Fund, organized following the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D. C. just 11 days prior.

The Wilkes-Barre players certainly liked the idea of having Lemieux on their side.

"It's a pretty big thing for us and the fans," said goaltender Sebastian Caron. "They don't get a chance to see Mario play. It's a big thing for everybody here."

Lemieux's regular teammates liked the idea too, but realized the unspoken rules involved in the situation. "You check Mario, Andrew Ference said. "You don't hit him."

Ironically, Lemieux suffered a hip injury during the game that would lead to him only playing 24 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins that season.

This was not the first time a star player suited up for a minor league affiliate, as Wayne Gretzky once played for the Phoenix Roadrunners of the IHL in an exhibition game versus their parent club, the Los Angeles Kings.

Today's featured jersey is one of our favorites in the Third String Goalie collection. It is an SP Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Mario Lemieux home jersey as worn by Lemieux during the game on September 22, 2001 and features another one of our custom-made reproduction patches, this one of the Blue Cross sponsorship patch.

It first appealed to us due to it's colors, striping design and logo. Only when researching who wore this style for customizing options did we learn that it was actually worn by Mario Lemieux and the story behind his single appearance for the "Baby Pens".

Through some research, and cooperation from the WBS Penguins themselves, this jersey was customized by Sport-Jes in Plymouth, PA, who did the customizing for the "Baby Pens" during their early years when this style of jersey was worn. The customization uses Glacier Twill for the name and black part of the numbers and is kiss-cut, meaning the yellow layer of the numbers has the center cut out, which is then sewn onto the black layer as an edge trim, rather than being a larger yellow layer with a smaller black layer sewn on top, as is customary.

2001-02 AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins jersey
2001-02 AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins jersey
2001-02 AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins jersey

The exhibition game between the Penguins and "The Baby Pens" was televised in Pittsburgh, a rarity for an exhibition game, but a search of YouTube failed to uncover any video of the contest.

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