Reporting John Shumway
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Three times the savior of Pittsburgh hockey, a statue honoring Mario Lemieux was unveiled Wednesday, appropriately called “Le Magnifique.”
Adoring fans pressed against a fence for a glimpse.
“It brings tears to my eyes how much I admire him, his integrity, his character, everything he brings to this city and what he’s done for us,” said one fan. “He’s ‘Le Magnifique.’”
On a picture perfect day, their hero made his way through a who’s who of Penguins’ hockey and local leaders to help unveil a statue he really didn’t want.
“I knew he didn’t want it because he’s just not showy like that,” said Nathalie Lemieux, Mario’s wife. “He’s more private and he didn’t think he should have one.”
During the ceremony, Lemieux fondly remembered his 1984 arrival in Pittsburgh.
“I remember driving through the Pitt tunnel and seeing the city for the first time, and that’s when I fell in love with the City of Pittsburgh,” the Hall of Famer said.
And Pittsburgh quickly fell in love with No. 66 through his successes, his illnesses and post-playing career battles to save his team.
“He’s the father of hockey in Pittsburgh,” said another fan. “If it wasn’t for him, they wouldn’t be here now.”
“Mario changed the way people thought in Pittsburgh, and he changed the way we went about looking at sports,” said Pittsburgh Penguins CEO David Morehouse.
“So many great memories over the years, so many great moments, and it’s an incredible honor and one that I will be able to cherish with my family for the rest of my life,” said Lemieux.
The statue is based on this 1988 Sport Illustrated picture of Lemieux breaking through two defenseman to score.
“It’s so emotional, and it brought tears to our eyes, and I’m just so happy that Mario finally said yes,” added Nathalie.