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Forty-somethings (cont.)

Posted: Wednesday October 12, 2005 2:11PM; Updated: Saturday October 15, 2005 5:58PM
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Mario Lemieux
Mario Lemieux
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Mario's the youngest of this group, having turned 40 on opening night. Due to his battle with Hodgkin's disease and other injuries that sidelined him for various stretches in the mid-1990s, he also has logged less miles on those legs, having played just under 1,000 combined regular season/postseason games. Compare that with Steve Yzerman's 1,645 combined games.

But forget those factors. And forget that Mario (the owner) needs to have Mario (the player) in uniform to lure fans into the arena.

Lemieux was presented with the biggest reason to keep playing when his Penguins landed the No. 1 pick in this year's entry draft. The opportunity to take Sidney Crosby under his wing was all the motivation Papa Penguin needed. And no doubt Mario still has plenty of points left on his stick -- he posted 91 points in his last full season (2002-03).


Steve Yzerman
Steve Yzerman
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

If Yzerman had ended the 2004 playoffs skating the Stanley Cup instead of being helped off the ice after a deflected puck broke bones near his left eye in the conference semifinals loss to Calgary, he probably wouldn't have returned. A Cup celebration would have been a proper way for the Red Wings captain to end his career.

The lockout probably should have sealed the door too. All the signs -- bad left eye, rebuilt right knee, year off from hockey; nothing left to prove -- suggested one thing: Hang it up.

But Yzerman's stubbornness is one of his endearing traits, so he signed a one-year deal. But just how effective will he be? He has yet to play because of a groin injury, although he's slated to make his season debut Thursday.

If Yzerman can avoid health problems, he can still be effective on a second or, more likely, third line. But staying injury-free doesn't seem likely.