On a gorgeous midday that at least approached 66 degrees, the Penguins today unveiled a larger-than-life statue of team owner and Hall of Fame center Mario Lemieux, dubbed "Le Magnifique," outside Consol Energy Center along Centre Avenue.
Lemieux, in a rare public speaking appearance, thanked a long list of people -- fans, family, teammates, business partners.
"When they have a statue like this in your honor, it's something special for myself, my family and, of course, the fans who have followed my career," Lemieux said shortly after the unveiling.
A throng of those fans attended the ceremony. So did Lemieux's family, the current team, Penguins co-owner Ron Burkle, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, and mayor Luke Ravenstahl.
The bronze sculpture, made by artist Bruce Wolfe, stands over 10 feet. It is adapted from a photo that appeared in Sports Illustrated of a moment in a 1988 game in which Lemieux burst through New York Islanders defensemen Rich Pilon and Jeff Norton on a scoring play. It was the kind of move that defined Lemieux's power, skill and grace during a playing career that was great but might have been even more monumental if not for injury and illness that wiped out chunks of his prime years.
As a player, Lemieux won two Stanley Cups, in 1991 and 1992. He also won one as an owner in 2009, the Sidney Crosby era.
A first overall draft pick by the Penguins in 1984 when he was 18, Lemieux ranks seventh in NHL history with 1,723 points and ninth with 690 goals despite not reaching 1,000 games.
He won six Art Ross Trophies as the league's leading scorer and three Hart Trophies as MVP.
Lemieux turned Pittsburgh into a hockey city and, in 1999, bought the team out of bankruptcy. He also led a charge to keep the team in town by getting Consol Energy Center built, across the street from where he spent his playing days at Civic Arena. The outdated arena, its roof partially gone, is being razed.
Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org , 412-263-1721 or Twitter @pgshelly First Published March 7, 2012 6:30 PM