Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Mario Lemieux debuted for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1984 at a time when the Penguins were playing to an arena that was half empty and subject to rumors of relocation.
He scored a goal on his very first shot in his very first game, and the Penguins were on the road to recovery. Lemeiux would go on to win the Calder Trophy that season and place second in the scoring race, while winning the Pearson Award in his second year.
His game reached the next level with his performance in the 1987 Canada Cup, when at age 21, he was able to play with veterans Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Paul Coffey. That experience launched his game to the next level and he won his first Art Ross Trophy in 1987-88 with 168 points, ending Gretzky's seven year hold on the league scoring title, as well as the Hart Trophy.
The following season was the greatest of his career, when he scored a career highs with 85 goals and 114 assists for 199 points and his second scoring title.
Eventually, the toll on his body began to affect him and in 1990 he had to undergo back surgery for a herniated disc, which caused him to miss 50 games of the following season. He would return to lead the Penguins over the Minnesota North Stars to the Stanley Cup Championship and win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
The following season he was limited to 64 games due to injuries, yet still won his third scoring title. Although a slash broke his left hand, which caused him to miss five games, Lemieux still led the playoffs in scoring and won his second Conn Smythe Trophy as the Penguins won their second consecutive Stanley Cup.
In January of the following 1992-93 season, Lemeiux was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma and had to undergo radiation treatments to combat the disease, which caused him to miss two months of the season. On the last day of his radiation treatments, he flew to Philadelphia and famously scored a goal that evening after receiving a standing ovation from the notoriously hostile Philadelphia fans. He continued to score at a furious pace and won his fourth scoring title later that season with a remarkable 160 points in just 60 games. His remarkable return from cancer would be recognized with the awarding of that season's Masterton Trophy.
More back surgery awaited him in the off season, which would cause him to miss the first 10 games of the season as well as 48 more later in the year with more back problems. The combined effects of his back problems and fatigue from the radiation treatments caused Lemieux to announce he was taking the 1994-95 season off after making it into just 22 games that season.
He returned to the game of hockey for the start of the 1995-96 season after a 17-month layoff, and in his seventh game back on this date in 1995, Lemeiux would score his 500th NHL goal in just his 605th game, second only to Gretkzy's 575. He would finish the season with 69 goals and 92 assists for 161 points and his fifth scoring title as well as being named the winner of his third Hart Trophy.
Today's featured jersey is a 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins Mario Lemeiux jersey as worn when Lemieux scored his 500th NHL goal, becoming only the 20th player in league history to reach that important milestone.
This jersey style was worn beginning in the 1992-93 season and was inspired by the original Penguins jerseys of 1967-68 which also featured the diagonal "Pittsburgh" cresting on the front and is one of our personal favorites here at ThirdStringGoalie with it's mix of modern styling with a classic influence. They would remain in use through the 1996-97 season until being replaced by then then alternate jersey for the following season.
Today's video section is Lemeiux scoring his 500th NHL goal against the New York Islanders on this date in 1995.