This time, is the last time. There will be no more returns for Mario Lemieux. The Hall of Famer, owner, player, team mate and leader laid it all out for everyone in an emotional press conference Tuesday in Pittsburgh. Frustrated with his health of late and realizing that he can't compete at a level he was happy with, one of the greatest to ever put on the blades bid adieu to the game he loved and in some ways redefined.
It was a bittersweet moment for Lemieux who leaves a game that has finally come around to his way of thinking. This new firewagon style of hockey that we have today would have been just the stage for a younger Mario to really show off his skills. Imagine what his stat package might have looked like had we gone down this road some twenty years ago!
From Stanley Cup Championships to International exploits, the legend of Mario grew with each successive year. Check out the Globe and Mail's chronology of all things Mario for the legendary details!. Often injured he bounced back time and time again to pick up where he left off and improve, improve, improve on his legacy. He battled cancer and more recently heart difficulties with grace, giving many a role model to follow for more than hockey matters.
He saved a Pittsburgh franchise doomed to extinction and has tried to move heaven, earth and politicians to make the Penguins a lasting fixture on the Pittsburgh sports scene. It's only been recently that he seems to have seen the writing on the wall and stepped aside from his hometown saviours role, allowing the officials of Pittsburgh to take more of the responsibility over whether the Pens live or die in the steel city. It's telling to see him not only step aside from the office but from the ice at ths time, perhaps not wishing to oversee the possible final days in the city where he made his name. If the Pens eventually do have to leave, not one person can raise Lemieux's name in complaint, this was a guy that did everything one man could do to make a team a success. Lemieux never failed the fans in Pittsburgh, not as a player, not as an owner and not as a citizen!
For the rest of us there was the hockey player, a bright star in the NHL universe that never failed to entertain. Worthy of our respect and adulation, he brought the game to great height at a time when many tried to bring it down to its basest level. The fact he like Gretzky was so successful is all the testimony we need to his great talent!
There are hundreds of tributes to his exploits on the internet today, simply go to Google news and google in Mario Lemieux, your reading time will be filled for hour upon hour.
Here are some of the best ones that HockeyNation found over the last few hours.
TSN January 24
Boston Herald, January 25
MSNBC January 24
Canoe January 25
Baltimore Sun January 25
Pittsburgh Post Gazette (1) January 25
Pittsburgh Post Gazette (2) January 25
Pittsburgh Post Gazette (3) January 25
Pittsburgh Tribune Review (1) January 25
Pittsburgh Tribune Review (2) January 25
Pittsburgh Tribune Review (3) January 25
The Crikey, Australia January 25
The Toronto Star January 24
Globe and Mail January 24