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A favorite memory: the anniversary of the Mario Lemieux faceoff goal

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16 years ago today was a special day

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Searching this on google, I realized I have repeated this post almost every year on this date. It’s a special date. Mario Lemieux scored straight off a faceoff on 12-23-2002 against the Buffalo Sabres. Great moment. Cool thing. No doubt.

And it’s easy holiday fodder since usually by this time it’s holiday break season. And a unique cool Mario Lemieux moment should never be celebrated.

But then, I realized another reason I remember this so much, and always want to bring it up every day on this year is because of personal reasons. I was at this game. Pretty good seats too. The first Penguins game my mom ever got to go to and with me too. It was a special moment for us no matter what, but of course made all the more memorable about what happened.

So I like to talk about it. Our blog with its million hits a month is fun. Naturally it’s skewing younger. Probably three of the five staff members are mid-20’s or less, so folks don’t necessarily always remember these types of days and moments. But it’s worth remembering.

Here’s what I wrote last year, which still looks good to me (see, told ya - easy holiday content).

15 years ago were some tough times, the finances of hockey were out of whack with rich teams like New York and Detroit spending well over two times more on payroll than smaller teams. No salary cap. Over a year after dealing Jaromir Jagr, the Penguins were already in the process of selling off all of their good players for pennies on the dollar to simply stay in business. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were still unknown teenagers. The PPG Paints Arena was but a dream, tied up in local and state politics and bureaucracies. A dark period in franchise history to be sure.

We know now that through some pain and patience, pretty much everything went right for the Pens. The NHL broke their players through a lockout and negotiated a salary cap, smaller markets could compete. Lottery balls bounced the right way and Pittsburgh was #blessed with generational talents. The new arena was finally agreed upon and built. Three Stanley Cups have followed.

For Lemieux, 2002 was the last moments of glory for him on the ice in his magnificent career. Mario put a bow on his career with an Olympic gold medal in February and then scored this highlight reel goal. From 1/1/2003 to his eventual retirement in December 2005, Mario would only play 66 more games and score just 18 goals and add 40 assists in a mostly forgettable time on a bad team.

But on a December night 15 years ago, the coming storm was avoided for one night with Mario giving one more special moment of greatness.

So for personal reasons, 12/23 is always a great memory. Hopefully more will be added in the future for everyone- whether it’s Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin or Jake Guentzel or who knows what else coming down the line in the future. As Badger Bob taught us, everyday is a great day for hockey and December 23rd in my mind is definitely no different.

Have a good Sunday everyone!