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Mario Lemieux turns 50, NHL players share memories

NHL.com @NHL

Pittsburgh Penguins co-owner and chairman Mario Lemieux, one of the greatest NHL players of all time, turned 50 on Monday.

To commemorate Lemieux's special day, NHL.com asked players across the League for their memories of the man known as "The Magnificent One."

Lemieux, who battled health issues throughout his 17-season NHL career, had 1,723 points in 915 games, all with the Penguins. He won the Stanley Cup twice as a player (1991, 1992) and as Penguins owner in 2009.

Internationally, Lemieux won an Olympic gold medal, a Canada Cup championship, and a World Cup title. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame upon his retirement in 1997 but returned to the NHL in 2000 and played parts of five additional seasons before retiring in the middle of the 2005-06 season at the age of 40.

The memories shared by current NHL players were almost as varied as the types of highlight-reel goals Lemieux scored during his unrivaled career.

Here they are:

"With the Penguins winning Cups when I was growing up and Mario being one of the best in the world, he did a lot for the city of Pittsburgh in turning things around. You see a lot of rinks popping up in the area and you see the way the game has taken off in Pittsburgh, a lot has to do with him. I know there are a lot of guys now in the League from Pittsburgh, and it's all due to him." - Columbus Blue Jackets forward Brandon Saad, who grew up near Pittsburgh

"I think Mario was a dominant player who did so much for the game. I was actually watching a game the other day on the NHL Network that he was playing in. I think it was with the Penguins in 1993. You could just see how he slowed the game down. He made it look so effortless. The way he played the game was so impressive." - Philadelphia Flyers forward Claude Giroux

"He and his family were and have been so good to me. As an 18-year-old, it's not an easy adjustment to those expectations, and they were there for me, helping me. Mario was there hockey-wise, but his family made me feel comfortable right away. When you're comfortable off the ice and you feel at home, on the ice becomes pretty easy. That was really important. Obviously, who wouldn't want Mario Lemieux to be able to lean on for questions and for advice? It's funny, though, all those hockey things are one thing, but the things I remember the most are probably when he took me to find a good suitcase to travel with on the road because I didn't have anything like that coming from junior. Whether it was telling me, 'Hey, this is how you dress on the road; you can't wear sneakers with jeans.' If he says jeans, you can't wear sneakers. I remember I wore sneakers with jeans on one of my first trips and everyone was laughing and going, 'Hey, what is he doing?' I'm like, 'I thought you said jeans.' Coming from junior, we wore track suits. It's little things like that that he could help me with. If I had a question, he understood it all." - Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who lived with the Lemieux family during his rookie season

"When he was flying by me, it's as simple as that. He could probably still play if he hadn't been hurt, the things he did, the way he used his size, his reach, the ability to skate. I remember it never looked like he was skating fast, but he was flying. I remember he took a path on the left side and I thought, 'OK, I got him, I got him,' and whoops, he was gone and obviously he scored. That's when I realized that this guy was something else. There were best players, then there was him and Wayne [Gretzky]. It was another level for them." - Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara

"For me, his number I think is the main thing. Even though I didn't really know who he was, I always knew he was No. 66. And I knew he was Mario Lemieux and that he was really good even though I never really saw him play. But what I probably remember from him the most from when I was a kid was when he was with Nike and he wore the white skates. That's probably what I remember most from him, not really seeing him play in Sweden." - Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, who said he wore the same Nike white skates when he was in Sweden

"I remember watching him play when I was a little kid and seeing him score all those highlight-reel goals. He had some amazing moves. My biggest memory of Mario is having a poster of him hanging in my room at the cottage." - Calgary Flames forward Sean Monahan

"He is an icon and a legend of the game, so he is a guy you watched a ton growing up. He and [Jaromir] Jagr were an amazing duo. Also, he and I being bigger guys, you appreciate some of the stuff he could do with the puck. It's good to see him still involved in the game." - Toronto Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk

"Growing up in Swewden, we had some limited access to watching NHL hockey, but I remember as I got older and came into the teenage years and watched him and Crosby play together. His range and his size and the way he split defensemen. With that size and to be that mobile, it's pretty remarkable to see." - Colorado Avalanche forward Gabriel Landeskog

"He's one of the best. You wish he could stay in a healthy state his whole career and see what he could have done. When you say 'Mario Lemieux' and you think about him, he is one of those players that should be your favorite player probably. As kids we didn't see him as much. I loved his talent and the way he played; so big and so strong on the puck that the way he played almost put you to sleep." - San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture

"Mario was a guy I was always looking up to. He is a legend. The things he accomplished during his career are amazing and impressive. He was a great role model. He's battled through so much adversity. I think his career was great for the game and I think it really grew the game for young kids that wanted to play. He was an inspiration for sure." - Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron

"Mario is one of the best to ever play. I know talking to the guys in Pittsburgh, like Sid, they really look up to him. He's definitely had a huge impact. It's hard to believe he is 50. You see highlights of him all the time, whether it is Team Canada or Pittsburgh, and he is one of the guys you have the utmost respect for and still enjoy seeing him around the rinks. Even when we are playing Pittsburgh, to know he is up in the crowd watching, that would be pretty cool." - Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin

"You look at Mario and he is arguably one of the most talented players to ever play, maybe arguably the best player to ever play. His era with him and Wayne [Gretzky] was just so special with what they did. He had a lot of hurdles to overcome. He had some health issues that hampered him at various points of his career. His imagination was incredible. His size, his ability to skate and protect the puck, but the way he saw the game, his poise and his hands were special to watch." - New York Islanders center John Tavares

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