Mario Lemieux has had a lot of accomplishments both on and off the ice. He’s a Hall of Fame Center with two consecutive Stanley Cup championships and a three time MVP. He has battled cancer, back injury, and city politicians and won. But if you want to know what the city really thinks of this man, check out the inscription on this sculpture:
Mario Lemieux’s career is defined not only by his spectacular talent, but also by his fierce determination and uncommon resilience; qualities that enabled him to break through adversity and overcome immense challenges both on and off the ice. Mario arrived here as a teenager from Montreal and quickly became one of our own, choosing to stay here and give back to the community. Exuding all those core attributes – loyalty, dedication, ability and compassion – that make him, above all else, a Pittsburgher.
A Pittsburgher. If you aren’t from here then you don’t realize how difficult it is for an outsider to break through that barrier. You can live here for thirty years and as much as we may love and accept you as our neighbor, co–worker, or friend, we still might not consider you one of us. It’s a ’Burgh thing. So when you see this inscription, you have to understand that this city has truly embraced
Le Magnifique as one of ours. We don’t mind that our friends up north still think of him as Canadian. We know he’s a Pittsburgher.
The sculpture is designed from a photograph taken by Paul Bereswill that was published in Sports Illustrated in 1988. It was during a game between the Penguins and the NY Islanders when Mario powered through defensemen Rich Pilon and Jeff Norton to score. Almost every article we read about this sculpture quoted different people as saying that the move was typical for number 66. On the Penguins own website write–up they said this image was
a metaphor for everything Lemieux accomplished in his career and his life – breaking through defenders, overcoming obstacles, turning back challenges. That particular play was his 247th career goal out of 690.
Defenders Rich Pilon and Jeff Norton
As for the poor defensemen that are now immortalized while being beaten by
Le Magnifique, we found this quote in an article by Sean Leahy:
Pilon told TSN’s Bob McKenzie on Wednesday that he’s honored to be a part of the statue, adding, ’If you're going to get beat on a play and it’s there for everyone to see forever, it might as well be Mario. He did that to a lot of defensemen.
The city owes Mr Lemieux a lot. If not for him we might not even still have a hockey team. That part of his contribution is well known, but in the background our number 66 has contributed so much more. I think by now that most everyone is aware that he has a charitable organization. They may not be aware of just how much he’s accomplished there. The Mario Lemieux Foundation has been around for more than 20 years. Over the years he has raised and contributed millions to local hospitals for patient care and cancer research. He and his wife have built 28 playrooms at hospitals for patients and families. On the foundation’s website Mr Lemieux says that it is
a life-long opportunity for me to give hope to patients and families facing what I know is a frightening battle.
Maybe in summary we should quote Mike Lange (our infamous announcer of the Penguin’s games) on the day of the sculpture’s dedication:
His number is retired. He bought the team. He owns the team. He is the team.