Here is an interesting one to look back on.
On its own that is a noteworthy accomplishment.
At the time he was just the 36th player in NHL history to reach the 1,000 point mark, and even today it is a milestone that only 90 players have ever reached.
What makes Lemieux’s journey to 1,000 points so incredible is that he reached it at age 26 and in only his 513th career game, the second-fastest player to reach it in NHL history. Wayne Gretzky reached it in only 424 games.
Just to put that into perspective, look at what the Penguins’ other 1,000 point scorers (all of them NHL legends in their own right) reached the mark.
Jaromir Jagr: December 30, 2000: Age 28, 763rd career game
Sidney Crosby: February 16, 2017: Age 29, 757th career game
Evgeni Malkin: March 12, 2019: Age 32, 848th career game
There is an obvious era adjustment there (Lemieux played the early part of his career in the highest scoring era in NHL history with some of the worst goaltending; the other three played in a significantly lower scoring era with the best goaltending) but it is also a testament to how dominant Lemieux was a player. Younger Penguin fans may not entirely appreciate it.
It was probably a little more than a decade ago when someone asked me which duo I would pick: Lemieux and Jagr or Crosby and Malkin, and my answer was I would take Lemieux and any other player in Penguins history, no matter how good or bad they were over the other duo. That was even knowing full well how great Crosby and Malkin were. It was not a slight at them. It was just a testament to Lemieux’s greatness. Maybe there is some hyperbole in there (I mean, we do have to take into account the Crosby-Malkin era does actually have more championship hardware on their resumes. That counts for something — a lot, actually) but I don’t think there is a lot.
As I mentioned in last week’s Story time with Gretz, I only had a chance to actually see Lemieux play in person a couple of times, and both of them were during his comeback years.
Every time I went to a Penguins game as a kid (which was not often) he was either not playing that season due to illness or injury, did not play in that season, or simply did not play in that game. But even comeback-era Lemieux was still a freak. I saw the face-off goal in person, and I also saw the night he absolutely blew past a young Zdeno Chara with the New York Islanders. I think you remember this goal.
What a player.