On December 27, 2000, the great Mario Lemieux of the Pittsburgh Penguins returned to the ice following a three year absence from competitive hockey.
Lemieux became the first player to compete while owning the team in modern pro sports history. His comeback came as a shock to fans because, there were not even signs of rumors until a few days before the game. In the five years he played after the comeback he scored 77 goals and had 152 assists. He officially retired as a player after the 2005-06 season at the age of 40.
Before his three years off the ice Lemieux had a 12 season skate with the Penguins. Aside from the skill he demonstrated on the ice, he is equally well known for his ability to fight cancer while not leaving his day job. His January 1993 diagnosis of Hotchkins Lymphoma would have stopped almost anyone else but despite the bad news he thrived. After just two months of therapy he was able to get back into games and on his final day of treatment he recorded two points. The team was inspired by his triumph off the ice and went on to win 17 games in a row.
Lemieux was the first one chosen in the first round of the 1984 NHL entry draft. By the end of his career he was recognized with many different trophies and awards but most notably the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for sportsmanship and perseverance at the end of the 1992-93 season. He lead the Penguins to the playoffs for eight different seasons and helped them win the Stanley Cup Finals twice. In 1997, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a player. His most recent major honor was representing Canada in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA where the team came away with the gold medal.
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Related links: http://proicehockey.about.com/od/history/p/mario_lemieux.htm (Lemieux’s biography) http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/43180-Mario-Lemieux-comeback-still-greatest-of-alltime.html (The greatest come back of all time) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhYgHM_Xw2c (video footage of Lemieux)