PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Anticipation has been building for weeks now, and the day Mario Lemieux fans have been waiting for has finally arrived.
Fans began gathering outside of CONSOL Energy Center early in order to get front row seats for the big unveiling of the “Le Magnifique” statue, a big honor for a hockey great.
Out of the darkness of the early morning hours, they emerged on a pilgrimage to see their hockey king immortalized.
“He’s just a great guy for the city; a great guy for hockey,” said Penguins’ fan Matthew Rader, of Pittsburgh.
“I’d just like to show my appreciation for everything he’s done,” said Dennis Snyder, a Penguins fan from Morgantown, W. Va.
It’s hard to believe how long it’s been since No. 66 – also known as “Le Magnifique” – arrived in Pittsburgh.
Back then, he was a French Canadian kid of modest means who couldn’t speak English, but he eventually made the town along with the team he played for his own, along with with all hockey hearts in Pittsburgh.
As Badger Bob might say, “It’s a great day for hockey.”
And a great day for Mario Lemieux.
This would be the day, wrapped in black temporarily, but cast in metal forever, that his likeness would be revealed to his adopted home.
But what would it look like? What moment captures the man teammates called “The Big Guy” and “Ace?”
“Oh, there’s a lot of them,” said Snyder.
Also of no doubt, is how deserving the honor is.
Although, he’d never admit it, Lemieux saved hockey in Pittsburgh – twice. First, as a player, and then as an owner.
Also, his Mario Lemieux Foundation has benefited so many families and sick children.
Lemieux was a great hockey player, but those who know him say he’s an even better man. And his fans think so, too.
“I think I like his character more than anything,” said Julie Erb, a Penguins fan from Pittsburgh. “I think he has a lot of ties to the community and does a lot for the children; so that’s more important to me than just a Pens’ hockey player.”