Mario Lemieux is known as one of the greatest players in NHL history, with two Stanley Cups, six NHL scoring titles, three MVP awards, two Conn Smythe Trophies, a Calder Trophy, a Masterton Trophy - and an Olympic gold medal for good measure.
Now, he's also established himself as one of the league's greatest owners.
Lemieux and co-owner Ron Burkle led the Penguins to three Stanley Cups in a nine-year span between 2009 and 2017, giving Mario more Cups as an owner than he won as a player.
His transition from excellence on the ice to excellence in the front office - with five Cups in all - has been another remarkable achievement in a truly unprecedented pro sports career.
"I don't know that there's another individual who's had the impact on a franchise that Mario has had on the Pittsburgh Penguins," said David Morehouse, the Penguins' president and CEO. "He saved the team as a player and led it to two Stanley Cups. He bought the team out of bankruptcy, led the effort for a new arena and delivered three more Cups. And that doesn't even touch on what he's done for the city as a philanthropist with the Mario Lemieux Foundation. He is one of a kind."
Lemieux and Burkle organized a group of investors that bought the Penguins out of bankruptcy in 1999. The combination of Lemieux's hockey acumen and Burkle's business savvy made them a formidable front office tandem and led to a series of spectacular achievements both on and off the ice.
The Penguins, during that time, have become one of the premier franchises in all of sports, leading the way in fan relations, youth marketing, community outreach and innovative technology while consistently putting a winning product on the ice. That includes qualifying for the playoffs for 12 straight seasons - the longest current streak in the NHL - and reaching the Cup Final four times and the conference finals five times in the past 11 years.
The Penguins entered the 2018.19 season having sold out every game for 11-plus seasons while setting high standards for television ratings, corporate sales and social media.
Lemieux and Burkle were driving forces in the quest for a new multi-purpose arena, which opened in August, 2010. PPG Paints Arena is considered one of the top facilities in North America and has hosted such national events as the 2012, 2015 and 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament opening rounds, the 2012 NHL Draft, the 2013 NCAA Frozen Four, the 2014 USA Gymnastics Championships and the 2016 and 2017 Stanley Cup Finals. The NCAA national championships in wrestling and women's volleyball were held at PPG Paints Arena in 2019.
Lemieux also helped to launch the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in nearby Cranberry, Pa. The practice home of the Penguins is the first facility of its kind to combine hockey with a world-class medical center and sports performance complex.
As a player, "Le Magnifique" was a gifted 6-foot-4 centerman who dominated play for parts of three decades. Although he faced a numbing series of medical setbacks, including multiple back surgeries and a battle with Hodgkin's disease, he retired in 2006 as the No. 7 all-time scorer in NHL history with 1,723 points. He also ranked eighth all-time in goals (690) and 10th in assists (1,033).
After retiring as a player for the first time in 1997, he put together an ownership group to buy the Penguins out of bankruptcy in September 1999 and then returned to the ice on December 27, 2000 - becoming the first player-owner of the modern era. He also captained Team Canada to an Olympic gold medal in 2002.
In addition to his legendary hockey accomplishments, he continues to oversee the Mario Lemieux Foundation, which has raised more than $25 million for charity. More information is available at mariolemieux.org.
Mario and his wife, Nathalie, have raised four children and reside in Sewickley.