Mario Back For Next SeasonArchived from 2003-04 season.
Mario Lemieux ended the speculation about his future by announcing he will play the upcoming season for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
It seemed Lemieux was ready to retire again in April when he used several jerseys and two dozen sticks in the Penguins last game.
"I retired before for 3½ years, and I know how much I missed it," Lemieux said. "As long as I feel good physically and mentally, I want to play."
The Penguins have a roster full of young players who will benefit from his presence on the team. Super-Mario will also help the team that he owns to get the funding for the new arena. The team plays in the NHL's oldest and smallest venue.
"I'm excited about having the opportunity to play and help these young guys," Lemieux said. "I was in that situation once, and I know how important the veterans are to the success of the guys coming up. I've come to a point in my career where I'll be 38 years old and can enjoy doing these things."
"I'm a better coach than I was a half-hour ago, and we're a lot better team," said Eddie Olczyk, the Penguins' new coach. "He will lead us, and they will follow."
The Penguins finished with the second-worst record in the NHL last season and expectations for the next season are not much better.
"I don't know about competing for the Stanley Cup; that's a different level," Lemieux said. "But we'll be out there competing every night to win. Our goal should be to make the playoffs ... because, if you get hot, a lot of good things can happen."
Lemieux has 682 goals and 1,010 assists over 15 seasons despite playing hundreds of fewer games than any of the other top 10 career scorers. He needs 18 goals to become the seventh in NHL history with 700 goals.
"I feel like the most blessed person in hockey, getting a chance to work with Mario and to watch him play every game," Penguins' general manager Craig Patrick said. "The fans of Pittsburgh should feel blessed, too. To have him back on the ice for however long he wants to play ... our city gets to watch the greatest player in the history of the game for another year."
Copyright©1997-2003 The HockeyNut