(Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Penguins)
It is a great day for hockey in the city of Pittsburgh. At a special unveiling in front of Consol Energy Center, the Pittsburgh Penguins unveiled a bronze sculpture that honored the greatest player ever to wear their sweater – Mario Lemieux. The artwork was adapted from a specific play that came against the New York Islanders on December 20th, 1988. According to the club’s website, “(the statue) was created by nationally-acclaimed bronze sculptor Bruce Wolfe of Berkeley, CA. James Frederick of James Gallery in Pittsburgh’s West End was the art consultant on the project.” Lemieux’s family, the Penguins’ front office staff, and local media personalities were on hand to experience the ceremony. Other notables in attendance were Commissioner Gary Bettman and Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke.
The most interesting part of the statue is that there were no prominent NHL logos or numbers on the three players. Lemieux and the Islanders defensemen (Rich Pilon & Jeff Norton) all are wearing blank jerseys. (Editor’s Update: It should be noted that a very subtle Penguins logo, captain’s C, and numbers are on the jersey ). If there are any early grumbles from the fans, it is that there are three players in the display. Given all that Lemieux did for the team, many fans think that the art piece should be of #66 only. Yes, there were plenty of moments where Lemieux broke through defenders, but considering he saved the franchise multiple times, it wouldn’t be out of place if he were the lone man standing.
No matter what the fans thought, we can all agree that Lemieux was (and to some degree still is) the reason that hockey survived and flourished in Pittsburgh. He was also the reason why we see more and more players coming out of Pittsburgh in the NHL draft. Blackhawks’ Brandon Saad, Panthers’ Vincent Trocheck, and the Ducks’ John Gibson are all players that can be considered part of the “Lemieux effect”.
Watch as a fan took their own video of the unveiling moment. Quick! Everyone raise your phones and cameras!