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Fans Pay Tribute to the Legendary Lemieux

by Brittany Goncar / Pittsburgh Penguins

Penguins fans adorned in Mario Lemieux jerseys started gathering outside of CONSOL Energy Center early this morning to stake out their spots for the unveiling of the Mario Lemieux statue, ‘Le Magnifique,’ that took place at noon on Wednesday. 

As the weather was a perfect 66 degrees and sunny outside, it was a gorgeous day to hang out and reminisce about their greatest memories of the legendary Lemieux.

“It’s like God and Lemieux have a connection,” said Michael Bodrog of Hopewell. “I thought it was going to be cold out today.  It always changes. I never expected it to be like this.”

Tim Beniot traveled from Newfoundland to Pittsburgh for the Penguins’ game against the Maple Leafs Wednesday night, and was able to attend the ceremony as an extra bonus. Seeing the turnout for the event made him realize just how beloved Lemieux is to the city of Pittsburgh.

“The amount of people here and being from out of town, you really realize how big of deal Mario is to this city,” he said. “Being from far away you don’t really appreciate it until you actually get here and you see it.”

Lemieux repeatedly thanked the fans for their unwavering support during his speech, saying how much he loves the city and being a lifelong Pittsburgher.

But the fans will never be able to thank him enough for what he’s done in Pittsburgh, both on the ice and in the community – and this statue is a way for them to express their gratitude.

“I think it’s a nice way for the city to play some tribute to Mario for all that he’s done,” said Ken Kajder of Level Green. “He certainly deserves it for the way he played and sticking around in the city and what he did for the Penguins. He’s probably one of the most important figures in sports in the city. “

Danny Leblanc of Capri Island, Sydney Nova Scotia, Canada traveled to Pittsburgh with his son Patrick as part of their annual three-game tour. His favorite part was watching the highlights of Lemieux’s greatest moments.

“It would be quite a souvenir to have,” Leblanc said. “You are seeing the best of the best there. “

The fans also had fun guessing about what the statue really looked like under the covering before the sheet was removed to reveal that the 4,700-pound bronze statue features Lemieux skating through two defensemen on his way to scoring a goal. It’s an adaptation of a sequence that took place Dec. 20, 1988 at Civic Arena against the New York Islanders.

Angela and Thane Barber from Johnsonburg traveled three hours just for a chance to get one of the first looks at the larger-than-life statue, and they weren’t disappointed.

“It’s great. I can’t believe it,” Angela said. “It’s kind of what I expected. I kind of thought he’d be going through two defenders and everybody kept saying that they wouldn’t put anybody else in it, but that’s the way he always played so I figured that’s what they would depict in the statue.”

“It looks great,” agreed Frank Mcaleavey of South Park. “He’s breaking through two defenders like that with a serious look on his face. I thought it was going to be him hoisting the Stanley Cup or something like that. This is him all business right here. This is what made him famous.”
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