Tuesday, January 24, 2006

So Long, 66

Unfortunately for the game of hockey, Mario Lemieux has once again been forced into retirement. I won't say much here, as others will do a much better job (TSN's entire main page currently has articles, videos and photos up), but one of the greatest athletes in the history of professional sports is exiting stage left. Personally, my two favorite Mario moments did not involve the Pittsburgh Penguins. Rather, they were centred around his time on Team Canada. The first is, of course, the game-winng goal he scored against the Russians in the 87 Canada Cup. To many, it is the supreme example of the man's skill as a hockey player. To me, however, the man's skill was demonstrated in a play that never saw him touch the puck.

In the final of the 2002 Olympic games, with Canada down 1-0 to the U.S., Canadian defenceman Chris Pronger entered the U.S. zone. Hitting the brakes in front of an American defender, Pronger passed the puck to Lemieux, who was in front of the net with a U.S. defenceman (Aaron Miller, I believe). Lemieux feigned a shot at the same time as he opened his legs, letting the pass go through to a wide-open Paul Kariya on the left side. Kariya buried the shot behind a fooled Mike Richter, and Team Canada tied the game. Canada went on to win 5-2. It was a simple yet gorgeous hockey play, reflecting a knowledge and skill and unselfishness that made Mario, if not the greatest player in the history of the game, probably its most talented.

Thanx for the memories, 66.


At 4:53 PM, Blogger Matt said...

I still snarf on my coffee every time I read that he scored 282 points in 70 games in his final season of junior (at age 17).

At 5:39 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

The only caveat to that is that it was in the QMJHL. Who doesn't score 100 points in that league?

At 10:04 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

I should also note that the Pens will now have another 3 million in salary room thanx to the retirement. That makes 6.5 million of freed up cash in two weeks thanks to two retirements. Does anyone else think that the Pens could use a defensive forward like Mike Peca to aid their efforts in the Eastern Conference?

At 11:34 PM, Blogger the best said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 12:54 AM, Blogger Nathan Muhly said...

I would say that you (Andy), and every other Oiler fan feels that the Pens require someone "like" Peca on their team.

At 1:32 PM, Blogger The Armchair Quarterback said...

I'll be honest, I've never been a hockey fan. But back in the 80's and early 90's when hockey was smart enough to allow the great players to rule the game I would occasionally tune in. I of course would watch games with Gretzky playing. The other must see player was Mario Lemieux. If you can get someone to watch a sport they normally wouldn't watch based on your ability then I would say that defines greatness.


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