Pittsburgh Penguins Honor Mario Lemieux with "Le Magnifique" Statue

Vince ComunaleContributor IMarch 7, 2012

"Le Magnifique" honors the legendary career of Mario Lemieux
"Le Magnifique" honors the legendary career of Mario LemieuxJustin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Penguins were set to play their 66th game of the season several hours later, and the temperature outside was a perfect 66 degrees. Crews continued work to dismantle the Civic Arena across the street, but the focus of the entire city of Pittsburgh was on the event taking place at the CONSOL Energy Center.

The event was the long-overdue unveiling of a sparkling new statue of the greatest player in Pittsburgh Penguins franchise history and current co-owner, Mario Lemieux

The privately-funded statue, entitled "Le Magnifique," is modeled after a goal that Lemieux scored in 1988 against the New York Islanders, where he split the Islanders' defensemen, Rich Pilon and Jeff Norton, and then scored on the ensuing breakaway. The iconic image was actually published on a Sports Illustrated cover, but is now in bronze and bigger than life. 

Just as Lemieux’s career was a long journey through peaks and valleys, his statue took a six-day trip from California through America’s peaks and valleys, finally ending up at CONSOL Energy Center. The statue is hard to miss, weighing in at 4,700 pounds and standing 10.25’ x 13’ long x 10’ wide. 

For those keeping score, Lemieux now has 1,723 career points, six scoring titles, three MVPs, two Stanley Cup championships and one statue that will stand in immortality.

Situated at the CONSOL Energy Center’s Centre Avenue entrance, the location of the statue couldn’t be more fitting. It is right across the street from the old Civic Arena location, but more importantly, it sits in front of the building that he was so instrumental in helping build. 

Make no mistake—without Lemieux, there would be no Pittsburgh Penguins, let alone a CONSOL Energy Center. While Lemieux never took a shift on the CONSOL Energy Center ice, it is undoubtedly the house that he built. 

It seems like a distant memory now, but the Penguins were on the verge of extinction until Lemieux and Ron Burkle stepped in 13 years ago to purchase the franchise from bankruptcy. The Penguins franchise owed Lemieux millions when it fell into bankruptcy, and he could have easily stood by as the bankruptcy proceeding unfolded, but instead took the initiative to put an investment group together that ultimately saved the Penguins. 

For more than a decade, Lemieux and his ownership group worked with the NHL, the City of Pittsburgh and the State of Pennsylvania to get the funding to build one of North America’s best multipurpose arenas. 

Across the street, the house in which Lemieux perfected his craft will soon be nothing more than a memory. However, his legacy will live on forever in front of the Penguins’ new home in the form of the "Le Magnifique" statue.

Similar to how generations of Pittsburgh baseball fans have been greeted by the likenesses of Honus Wagner and Roberto Clemente, Lemieux’s statue will surely become a meeting place for fans and invoke innumerable accounts of Le Magnifique’s greatness.