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On this day in 1994, Lemieux Steps Away From the Game

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A guest post looking at the first brief retirement of Pittsburgh Penguins star center Mario Lemieux

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Guest post today from Mike Commito, you can find him on twitter here.


On this day, August 29th,  in 1994, Mario Lemieux announced he would miss the entirely of the 1994-95 NHL season.

The news was not necessarily a complete shock to the hockey world. Lemieux had been battling Hodgkin's lymphoma and back problems for four years. After undergoing a second surgery to repair a herniated back muscle on July 28, 1993, the Penguins' star center missed the first ten games of the 1993-94 season and was limited to just twenty-two games that year.

While Lemieux was back in the lineup that postseason, commentators noted that he was playing like a shell of his former self. It was only after the Penguins were eliminated in the first round did he discover he was suffering from anemia, a byproduct of his radiation treatments.

When Lemieux announced he would be stepping away from the game to recover, the Penguins' star center made sure to note that, "this is not a hockey issue. This is a health issue. I feel my health at this time is a lot more important than playing hockey."

The respite paid off. The following summer, Lemieux announced that he would be returning to the ice for the 1995-96 season. And return he did. With a vengeance.


Despite sitting out an entire year, Lemieux proved once again why he was one of the best players in hockey. In his first game back on October 7, 1995, he notched four assists before the faithful Pittsburgh crowd as the Penguins starched the Maple Leafs 8-3. Later that same month, he would score his 500th career goal on the road against the Islanders. He accomplished the feat in 605 games, making him the second fastest player to reach the milestone, behind only Wayne Gretzky (575).

Super Mario would go on to rack up 69 goals and 161 points that season en route to his fifth scoring title and third Hart Trophy. In adding to his trophy case, Lemieux became just the fourth player to lead the league in scoring five times and just the seventh player to earn the MVP nod three times.

Don't call it a comeback.