Mario Lemieux (born October 5, 1965) is a retired Canadian professional hockey player who is currently the majority owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, his former team. He is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest hockey players of all time. Although Lemieux initially retired in 1997 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame later that year, he staged a comeback in 2000 and played for several more seasons. He retired for the final time in 2006 after developing a heart condition.
Lemieux has won the Stanley Cup twice as a player and once as an owner.
Mario Lemieux was selected first overall by the Penguins in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft. In his first season, he recorded 100 points and was awarded the Calder Trophy as the National Hockey League's rookie of the year. Although Lemieux delivered consistently impressive play in his first few seasons, his performances weren't enough to overcome a lackluster supporting cast and the Penguins missed the playoffs in each of Lemieux's first four seasons. The Penguins finally reached the playoffs in the 1988-89 season, aided by an improved team and a career-best 199 points by Lemieux, a total surpassed only by Wayne Gretzky.
Lemieux missed portions of the next two seasons with a back injury. Once healthy, he led the Penguins to consecutive Stanley Cup championships in the 1990-91 and 1991-92 seasons and was named playoff MVP both seasons. During the 1992-93 season, Lemieux was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease. Despite missing two months of the season to receive radiation treatments, Lemieux returned before season's end and won his fourth scoring title. However, recurring back issues eventually led Lemieux to retire after the 1996-97 season. The Hockey Hall of Fame waived its traditional three-year waiting period and inducted Lemieux in November 1997.
The Penguins, meanwhile, were forced to declare bankruptcy in November 1998 as a result of years of overspending. Lemieux, who was owed over $30 million in deferred salary, was one of the team's biggest creditors. Lemieux presented a plan to convert his earnings into equity in the team, which would make him the majority owner. His plan was approved, and Lemieux took control of the team in September 1999.
Surprisingly, Lemieux emerged from retirement on December 27, 2000, becoming the first player-owner in NHL history. He continued to be a productive scorer upon his return, but in the following years his comeback would be hampered by continuing health issues and the NHL lockout. Citing frustration with his level of play, as well as concern over a recently diagnosed heart condition, Lemieux retired for a second time on January 24, 2006.