Hockey Central

The 683 regular-season goals, the two Stanley Cups, they are statistical measures of Mario Lemieux's greatness. But there was more to this package of style and grace than career numbers could quantify.
Start with impeccable timing. Lemieux scored on the very first shift of his first NHL game. In his 12th and final season, Lemieux scored on the last shift of his final home game.
In between, Lemieux played hockey the way no one had before him. Lemieux redefined the sport. Never had hockey seen a player of such size - 6-4, 200-plus pounds - possessing the incredible skating and puck skills associated with the best small men.
Lemieux used this once-in-a-lifetime combination to create a legend. Lemieux basked in the spotlight on ice, but shied from it away from the game. No self-promoter, Lemieux allowed others to pronounce him the greatest. And they did. The Lemieux story was one written in neon ink. Yet this man who shone so brightly in his sport, was a superstar in life, too.
Back problems plagued him, requiring surgery in 1990. Lemieux's biggest challenge remained ahead, a struggle with Hodgkin's Disease and the necessary radiation treatments that forced him to miss the entire 1994-95 season. There was an air of uncertainty hanging over Lemieux upon his return. How would he play after a season away from his sport? The answer was he'd play as if he'd never been away.
Lemieux led the league in scoring his first season back and again this past season. At age 31, Lemieux seemed to be in his prime. The player knew otherwise. He recognized an erosion in his skills still undetectable to the fans and, because of that slippage, Lemieux has opted for retirement. More impeccable timing.

Thanks, Mario ...