Throughout the course of Mario Lemieux’s Hall of Fame career, many things have been said about his legendary achievements and abilities.
But former linemate and Penguins co-captain Terry Ruskowski may have topped them all:
“If God put one person on this earth to do one particular thing, it was Mario Lemieux to play hockey.”
Ruskowski joined the Penguins in 1985-86, following Lemieux’s rookie campaign in which he totaled 100 points on 43 goals and 57 assists. He played on a wing with Lemieux and the two were roommates on the road.
“He’s the most talented player I’ve ever met,” Ruskowski said. “The things that he did on the ice were absolutely amazing. I played with him. I couldn’t believe the things he did. I looked at him and shrugged my shoulders and he shrugged his shoulders like it’s no big deal. I’m thinking, ‘Are you kidding me? No man can make that play.’ But he did.”
Ruskowski, who co-captained the team in 1986-87, still remembers a lot from his two seasons with the Lemieux in 66’s teenage years.
“I remember when he would get mad on the ice and the defenseman had the puck behind him, he’d yell, ‘Leave it, leave it, leave it,’” Ruskowski said. “That’s my cue to wind up, have my stick on the ice and go to the net. If I don’t get a pass, I’m getting a rebound and scoring. That’s exactly what happened. It was a good 1-2 combination. I knew his characteristics. He always told me go to the net with the stick on the ice. Sometimes I didn’t believe him, but he always did what he promised. That was my best years playing with him.”
Ruskowski joined Lemieux and other Penguins’ alumni at the 16th Annual Penguins Alumni Charity Golf Classic presented by 84 Lumber on Tuesday at Valley Brook Country Club. And he’s still amazed at the accomplishments of his former roomie.
“We weren’t drawing very well and for (Lemieux) to com in and all of a sudden we’re packing the place, winning Stanley Cups, all of a sudden having that recognition of being a great franchise and very good hockey team,” Ruskowski said. “He bought the team and got investors. He’s the most popular athlete here. You talk to him and he’s not a stuffy guy. He’s a friendly guy. He’ll shake your hand and talk to you. People like that. He’ll talk to anybody. He’s just a great ambassador for the game of hockey, but a tremendous ambassador for the game of hockey in Pittsburgh.”