Thursday, October 8, 2009
On this date in 2005, Mario Lemieux suited up for the final home opener of his NHL career.
Being a part owner of the Penguins as of September 1, 1999 Lemieux realized that the Penguins greatest asset was - himself. He returned to the ice on December 27, 2000 and proceeded to score a goal and a pair of assists in his first game back. During the 43 games he played during the remainder of the 2000-01 season, Lemieux scored 76 points, the highest points-per-game average of any player that season, and led the Penguins to the conference finals.
The 2001-02 season saw Lemieux appear in only 24 games after his season was cut short due to chronic hip injuries aggravated while captaining Canada to the gold medal in the Olympics held in Salt Lake City. He would play in just a single game following the Olympics.
The following season would see Lemieux manage to play in 67 games and total 91 points, leading the scoring race for much of the year before missing most of the games near the end of the schedule and the Penguins would miss the playoffs for the second year in a row.
He would only play but ten NHL games in 2003-04, with just a single goal to his credit. That fall he would make his final appearances for Team Canada, captaining the squad that captured the championship in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. He would score a goal and four assists in six games played.
After the lockout season of 2004-05, he would return to the ice for the start of the 2005-06 season and skate along side Sidney Crosby for 26 games at age 40, before finally calling it a career on January 24, 2006. He would score 22 points in 26 games that season, but felt he could no longer compete at the level he was accustomed to in the past.
Today's featured jersey is a 2005-06 Pittsburgh Penguins Mario Lemeiux jersey as worn in the home opener of his final season as an NHL player. The jersey features the NHL Cares/Katrina Relief Fund patch worn during the first period of each NHL team's first home game of the season.
The patched jerseys were then auctioned off to raise money to aid the victims of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans, Louisiana in August of 2005. Lemeiux's game worn jersey generated the third highest final price league-wide with a final bid of $6,710 behind rookies Crosby ($21,010) and Alexander Ovechkin ($7,929). Overall the auction of 600 jerseys raised over a half a million dollars, which was then matched by the Garth Brooks' Teammates for Kids Foundation.
Here is the beginning of Lemieux's second return from retirement on December 27, 2000 after becoming owner of the Penguins.
This video shows Mario Lemieux's final goal of his career after being high sticked earlier in the video along with a rare Ziggy Palffy sighting in a Penguins jersey, as he would retire mid-season along with Lemieux.