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Penguins Mario Lemieux to announce his comeback as hockey player

"Retired" hockey legend said to have been working out privately since November

Thursday, December 07, 2000

By the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Penguins owner Mario Lemieux will announce, perhaps as soon as tomorrow, that he will attempt to make a comeback as a player within a month.

The Penguins declined to comment but club spokesman Tom McMillan said there would be "a major announcement very shortly."

In this October picture, Penguins owner Mario Lemieux, right, joined Jaromir Jagr and ESPN's Bill Clement on the ice at Southpointe to film a feature segment for the cable network. (Lake Fong, Post-Gazette)

Lemieux, 35, will resign his position as the club's voting member on the league's board of governors to comply with NHL bylaws. Inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame in 1997 following his last year as an active player in 1996-97, Lemieux will continue as the team owner and chief executive officer and will remain involved in the team's day-to-day business operations.

Lemieux's position on the board of governors is expected to be taken by either General Manager Craig Patrick or Executive Vice President/Chief Financial Officer Ken Sawyer.

A source close to Lemieux said the Penguins all-time leading scorer has been working out privately since November, and looks forward eagerly to returning as a player, perhaps in January, if his conditioning continues to progress as expected.

Lemieux reportedly began lifting weights and riding a stationary bike about a month ago and began skating within the last two weeks. Right now, he feels good and wants to play, the source said. While he's encouraged by his progress, Lemieux also realizes that his comeback must be taken in steps, the next being to practice with the team.

Lemieux likes the current Penguins team and thinks it can compete, the source added. He's also convinced that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and his staff have done a great job of opening the game up in the last couple of seasons.

Lemieux was very critical of the style of play in the NHL during his later years as a player. He said the failure to stop the clutching and grabbing on defense was severely restricting the ability of the game's elite players to perform.

During his 12-year career, Lemieux scored 613 goals and 1,494 points and led the team to two Stanley Cups.

Last year he assembled a team of investors that purchased the Penguins from bankruptcy and saved hockey in Pittsburgh.

For a comprehensive report on Lemieux's return see tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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