Mario Lemieux today announced his retirement as a player, bringing an end to a spectacular career that already has landed him in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Lemieux finishes his career with 690 goals and 1,033 assists for 1,723 points in 915 games over 17 seasons -- all with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He led the Penguins to two Stanley Cups and also won six NHL scoring titles, three MVP awards and two Conn Smythe Trophies as MVP of the playoffs. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1997.
Lemieux, 40, played 26 games with the Penguins this season, scoring seven goals and 15 assists for 22 points. He played for the last time on December 16 vs. Buffalo at Mellon Arena, recording one assist.
“The time is right because I can no longer play the game at the level I’m accustomed to,” Lemieux said in making the announcement. “I think the best decision is to retire as a player and turn the game over to the younger guys who are the future of this team and this league. It’s a young man’s game now.
“I have so many great memories, especially the Stanley Cups, and I want to thank the fans in Pittsburgh – and hockey fans everywhere – for the support they’ve given to me and my family over the years. It’s been an unbelievable ride. And I really do believe this team has a great future here in Pittsburgh. I’m looking forward to watching these young players grow and develop into a championship team.”
The native of Montreal was the Penguins’ first-round pick, first overall, in 1984, and made an immediate impact on the franchise and the NHL. Scoring a goal in his first game, on his first shift, on his first shot, Lemieux went on to register 100 points in his first season, 1984-85, and received the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.
He won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL scoring champion in 1987-88, 1988-89, 1991-92, 1992-93, 1995-96 and 1996-97.
He won the Hart Memorial Trophy as league MVP in 1987-88, 1992-93 and 1995-96.
He won the Conn Smythe Trophy both times the Penguins won the Stanley Cup – in 1991 and 1992.
Lemieux was named a first-team NHL All-Star five times and a second-team All-Star on four occasions.
He played in 13 NHL All-Star games and was named the All-Star Game MVP three times – including in 1990, when the game was played in Pittsburgh.
Lemieux also was an enormous figure on the international hockey scene. He scored the dramatic winning goal when Team Canada beat the Soviet Union in the 1987 Canada Cup, and was captain of the Canadian teams that won the Olympic gold medal in 2002 and the World Cup in 2004.
Lemieux faced and overcame tremendous physical challenges during his career. He waged a much-publicized and successful battle with Hodgkin’s disease in 1993 and also had two major back surgeries and two hip surgeries. Earlier this season he was diagnosed with a heart condition known as atrial fibrillation.
He retired for the first time as a player following the 1996-97 season – having produced 613 goals and 881 assists for 1,494 points in 745 games with the Penguins. The Hall of Fame immediately waived the mandatory waiting period and inducted him in 1997.
But that was not the last we heard from him. In September, 1999, Lemieux carved out another place in sports history when he led a group of investors that purchased the Penguins out of bankruptcy.
Barely more than a year later, he stunned the sports world by announcing that he was returning to the ice as a player – thereby becoming the first player-owner of the modern era.
Lemieux made his comeback on Dec. 27, 2000, scoring a goal and adding two assists in a 5-0 victory over Toronto at Mellon Arena. He finished with a remarkable 35 goals and 76 points in just 43 games that season and helped the Penguins reach the Eastern Conference finals against New Jersey.
After making his comeback, he played in 170 games from 2000-05, recording 77 goals and 152 assists for 229 points.
Despite missing a significant amount of games due to injuries throughout his career, Lemieux leaves as the No. 7 all-time scorer in NHL history with his 1,723 points. He also ranks eighth all-time in goals and 10th in assists.
Lemieux recently stepped down as CEO of the Penguins but still serves as Chairman of the Board.
In addition to his hockey accomplishments, Lemieux continues to oversee the Mario Lemieux Foundation for cancer research and neo-natal research and hosts its annual celebrity golf tournament, which raises millions of dollars for charity. In February, 2001, the foundation made a $5 million gift to the UPMC Health System to create the Mario Lemieux Centers for Patient Care and Research.
A statement from Commssioner Gary Bettman:
“Mario’s exceptional play earned him accolades. His ability to face adversity earned him respect. His devotion to Pittsburgh and the Penguins earned him admiration. His dedication to hockey – at both the NHL and International levels – earned him the enduring appreciation and thanks of everyone associated with the game. We celebrate his playing career and wish him only the best in the future.”