August 6, 2008

Mario Lemieux Week Day 3: The First Retirement and the Comeback

I remember watching Mario's first final game like it was yesterday. It didn't make sense to me at first. An athlete, just 31 years old, in his prime, still dominant, walking away from the game he loves. I was befuddled. I cried. I felt empty. It's hard watching your hero go away. At the time, this was my final memory of Mario and one of the reasons why I love Gary Thorne as a hockey announcer.

Three and a half years later, Mario came back. I still have the two VCR tapes of this game as ESPN originally started the game on ESPN2, then switched over early on. It was fitting that Mario's first goal back came off of a Jaromir Jagr pass.

Ballhype: hype it up!

1 comment:

Breeze said...

I remember, months before his return from retirement, Lemieux did a little in-game Hockey 101-type segment on ESPN with Jagr and Darren Pang. I couldn't believe how good he looked on the ice, and how his passing was still so sharp. The game announcers noticed too, as I recall. (I wonder if there's a clip of that around somewhere...)

Then, in December of that year, it was announced that Super Mario would return. I was overjoyed--but not totally surprised after seeing how good he had looked on ESPN that time.

Finally, Christmas came, and I headed back to Pittsburgh from Florida to visit the family. As a surprise gift, my mom had gotten me tickets to see a Pens game--my first in many years. I nearly fell over when I realized I'd be going to THE GAME. Pens vs. Leafs, 12/27/00. The Return of #66.

It. Was. Amazing.