Super Mario news
Report: Lemieux planning comeback as a player
Updated: Friday December 08, 2000 8:11 AM
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux plans to end his retirement and will play again for the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team he now owns.
Lemieux wants to return to the ice later this month or in January, according to a source close to the former star who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Penguins captain Jaromir Jagr said Lemieux told him of his plans to return about 10 days ago.
"He told me there was a possibility he was going to come back," Jagr said. "He said he had a good feeling about this team and he felt like he could help the team."
According to Sports Illustrated's Kostya Kennedy, the Penguins will make a formal announcement Monday regarding Lemieux's comeback. Kennedy also reports that Lemieux has been working out three hours a day for the last four weeks to get himself into shape for the comeback, losing 10-12 pounds in the process.
USA Today, which first reported the story on its Web site Thursday, said Lemieux would resign his position as the Penguins' governor, which means he will not vote on league issues.
The source told The Associated Press that Lemieux will remain involved in the team's operations.
The NHL has no specific rule that prohibits an owner from playing.
The team said an announcement was not expected before Monday.
The Penguins are 13-10-3-1, one point behind first-place New Jersey in the Atlantic Division. But Jagr, the team's biggest star, has struggled for much of the year and has quarreled at times with new coach Ivan Hlinka.
The 35-year-old Lemieux retired as a player after the 1996-97 season with 613 goals in 745 regular-season games. He became the Penguins' owner in September 1999, saving the team from bankruptcy and perhaps moving to another city.
Jagr said it would be difficult for Lemieux to come back after being away from the game for so long.
"I've been out for a month, and it was tough to come back," Jagr said. "I don't know what it would be like to come back after four years, but he's a smart guy and he knows it's going to be tough."
Lemieux won three MVP awards and led the Penguins to two Stanley Cup championships, in 1991 and 1992.
"I came in today and I heard a scream from the back room," Jagr said. "They were saying on the radio that Mario might come back. I think a lot of guys are really happy. Now they're going to get to play with a legend."
It would not be Lemieux's first comeback.
In 1993, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, or cancer of the lymph nodes, and missed three-quarters of that season. He later sat out the 1994-95 season after recovering from the cancer and a second bout with back trouble, but returned to bring the Penguins to within one victory of a third trip to the Stanley Cup finals in 1996.
He won his fifth and sixth scoring championships in his final two seasons.
Lemieux, inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame just months after his retirement, gained control of the Penguins on Sept. 3, 1999, the culmination of court proceedings that began when the team filed for bankruptcy Oct. 13, 1998.
He was a major creditor because of deferred payments the team owed him from his playing contracts.
Lemieux is not the first NHL star to plan a comeback. Gordie Howe joined the World Hockey Association at age 45, two years after he retired from the Detroit Red Wings, and Guy Lafleur joined the New York Rangers at 37, three years after he retired from the Montreal Canadiens.