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Hero on Ice

Posted December. 26, 2002 22:36,   


A lifetime rival Wayne Gretzky left the ice long, long time ago. Nonetheless, Super Mario, even getting deep into 30s, is still bustling around on the ice.

Mario Lemieux (37, Pittsburgh Penguins) in the NHL. He is the only player-owner of a pro sports team in the United States. Fans often compare him with NBA start Michael Jordan (39, Washington Wizards). They have lots in common. Each of them was the best star player in his field. Moreover, both have come back from retirement. There is, however, one big difference. After comeback, Lemieux has been demonstrating his top performance as that of his young days, while Jordan is running down the hill.

As of December 26, Lemieux has scored 17 goals and assisted 43, putting himself ahead of all young players and on top in the race to the Regular Season Scoring Championship, amazingly 11 points apart from the second place holder. In a home game against Buffalo Savers on Christmas Eve, he perfectly demonstrated his value.

In the third period with Savers leading the game 2-1. From this period, the magic of Super Mario began to work. 2 minutes after assisting a goal which put the game even between the two teams, Lemieux punched the puck dropped in a face-off into the net, scoring the game-winning goal for his team. But he did not stop there. Right after the goal, he assisted two more goals. Only in 6 minutes, he recorded 1 goal and 3 assists. After the game, Buffalo`s coach praised Mario and said, "It`s a magic only Mario can do!" Pittsburgh won the 5-2 victory.

Lemieux made his NHL debut in 1984, wearing the uniform of Pittsburgh. Through his 12-season career that ended in 1997, he competed with Wayne Gretzky, The Great One (retired in 1999), for the crown. With the genius of his skating and the animal of his athletic sense, he has recorded 671 goals and 990 assists in 845 games.

For 21 years in the NHL, Lemieux has left a remarkable record, even though he is behind Gretzky "`The Great One of the 20th century" who has grabbed the MVP 9 times and earned 6 Scoring Championships with 894 scores, the unchallenged record so far. Lemieux has won the MVP three times and recorded the most season scores in 6 years, getting his team the Stanley Cup championship twice in 1991 and 1992.

Fans also like the human Gretzky. He has overcome the cancer, a symbol of the human victory. Diagnosed with the cancer in 1993, he had to take `94 and `95 season. But he fought back and won the cancer. Finally, he made his comeback.

One month after retirement, he got into the Hall of Fame. In 1999, he bought Penguins. Then in December of 2000, he came back yet again.

In February, Lemieux led the Canadian national team in the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City to the championship in 50 years.

"If I had not been sure about giving the best performance to the fans, I would have not come back to the ice."

The legend of Super Mario is continuing at this moment.

Sang-Soo Kim ssoo@donga.com