Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Magnificent One Calls It A Career

Hey Peeps and anyone else checking in. A special "Hey" goes out to Hazel Mae.

The talk tonight is that the Magnificent one Mario Lemieux has called it a career. TSN and Rogers have extensive coverage on one the the greatest players ever to lace up a pair of skates in the NHL. I don't know what kind of coverage American media is giving this - but given that Hazel grew up a hockey fan...she's has to have done something on NESN - right?

For those of you who have read the page for a while now - you may or may not remember that during the NHL draft I wrote about seeing Lemieux at a downtown bar. He was very accomodating to fans; all of them wanting a picture with him, an autograph, a piece of him. My friends and I debated whether or not we should join the scrum - I thought we should give the guy some peace so we sat and drank. On his way out though...they elected me as the spokesperson and pushed me to say something to him as he left. So I cleared my throat and stuck out my hand - as he shook my hand I couldn't think of what to say...so I just said "Welcome home Mario...you are back in hockey country. We know what you mean to the game...and to many of us, you were the greatest player we ever had the pleasure of seeing." He smiled and said "Thank you...thank you very much, its good to hear that. " He shook all of our hands and walked out.

To my mind, Lemieux never got the credit he deserved - he was always compared to Gretzky...unfairly so. Lemieux never got the respect he deserved because he wasn't as likable as Gretzky - during their heyday Lemieux was looked at as "the anti-Gretzky".
  • Lemieux (a French Canadian) was never as well spoken as Gretzky;
  • Lemieux was seen as a complainer - a big guy who couldn't take the rough stuff;
  • Lemieux was seen as indifferent - he didn't have a passion for the game.
All this and a lot more garbage. Lemieux put up with abuse that few had to - Lemieux played a great part of his career without enforcers on his team to act as a deterrent to anyone who thought about gooning it up with him. He didn't have guys like Messier, Kurri, Anderson, Fuhr, supporting him - many of Gretzky's teammates went on to Hall of Fame (partly because of Gretzky...but they were still great players) - guys like Kevin Stevens, Tom Barrasso, and some of the other Pens will never make the Hall (Ron Francis will...Bryan Trottier will - but he wasn't in his prime when he played with Pittsburgh).

Lemieux lead his team to two stanley cups and came back from cancer - I think that shows a passion for the game. Lemieux was one of the greatest players ever to put on a Team Canada jersey. His elevated his game everytime he put on a red and white jersey - leading Canada to victories in the Canada Cup and the 2002 Olympic gold. He played in the shadow of Gretzky and therefore never got his due.

I like Lemieux - I didn't appreciate how good he really was until much later on in his career. I have written about this before - who are the greatest NHLers of all time. Where Lemieux fits on that list is the topic of debate tonight - what isn't, is that he was one of the greatest. I have him at number 2...from talking to people who have watched hockey much longer than me (not that they know more about it - hear that Jack Edwards?????)

1) Bobby Orr - the best player ever to play. Period. (I am deferring to hockey watching veterans)

2) Mario Lemieux - he did it without the supporting cast Gretzky had. Jayzuss...Lemieux made Rob Brown an all-star. Enough said.

3) Wayne Gretzky - no one will ever touch his records...but he wouldn't have done what Lemieux did if he was in the same boat.

There will be more to come on Mario in the coming days...if you are a fan of Team Canada or a hockey fan - you owe Mario Lemieux a big thank you. Mario may be the last truly great NHLer we will see - Mario's retirement signals the end of an era in hockey.

Have a great one peeps...be sure to visit yahoo site.

Hazel, I hope things are groovy in your world.

Song of the Night on Hazelspeeps - for Mario Lemieux

Simply The Best - Ms. Turner (cheezy I know...but he was one of them - depending on how you talk to)

Peesth Out!


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