Mario Lemieux is one of the greatest players to have ever played hockey. He makes all of the top 5 lists for best players of all time. Wayne Gretzky has even said that Mario was a better scorer than he was.
One of my favourite facts about Lemieux is that he is the only player to score in every possible situation during a single game – even strength, power play, shorthand, penalty shot and into an empty net.
However, despite all of the accolades, what players care the most about is winning Stanley Cups. They would trade all the other records and accomplishments for one Stanley Cup.
How many Stanley cups did Lemieux win? Mario Lemeiux has won 5 Stanley Cups – 2 as a player and 3 as an owner. As a player he won the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and 1992. As an owner, also with the Pittsburgh Penguins, he won the Stanley Cup in 2009, 2016, and 2017.
Let’s look at the Stanley Cups that Mario has won. We will start off with a more detailed look at the Stanley Cups he won as a player, including his personal stats. And then, we will look at how his ownership of the team was instrumental in helping Pittsburgh win their next three cups.
Mario Lemieux: Stanley Cups as a Player
Stanley Cup #1 – Pittsburgh Penguins 1990-91
This was Mario’s and Pittsburgh’s first ever journey to the Stanley Cup Finals. The opponent was the Minnesota North Stars, who were an unexpected opponent after upsetting a few highly favoured teams. The series was closer than expected, but Pittsburgh ended up winning in six games. He would miss the 3rd game of the series due to a back injury, but still managed to get 12 points in 5 games. Lemieux worked his magic in the series and captured the Conn Smythe trophy as Most Valuable Player in the series.
Pittsburgh won the series 4-2 versus the Minnesota North Stars
|1||May 15||Pittsburgh Penguins||4-5||Minnesota North Stars||1||0||1||7|
|2||May 17||Pittsburgh Penguins||4-1||Minnesota North Stars||1||1||2||3|
|3||May 19||Minnesota North Stars||3-1||Pittsburgh Penguins||Did||Not||Play|
|4||May 21||Minnesota North Stars||3-5||Pittsburgh Penguins||1||1||2||6|
|5||May 23||Pittsburgh Penguins||6-4||Minnesota North Stars||1||2||3||4|
|6||May 25||Minnesota North Stars||0-8||Pittsburgh Penguins||1||3||4||4|
During the series Lemieux scored one of the prettiest, most memorable goals you will ever see. It still gives me chills when I watch it.
Stanley Cup #2 – Pittsburgh Penguins 1991-92
The Penguins made it back to the Stanley Cup finals for the second year in a row as they defended the title against the Chicago Blackhawks. All of the games were close, but the Penguins ended up winning the series in four straight. Mario, again, had an excellent finals as he became only the second person to win back-to-back Conn Smythe trophies!
Pittsburgh won the Series 4-0 versus the Chicago Blackhawks
|1||May 26||Pittsburgh Penguins||5-4||Chicago Blackhawks||2||0||2||9|
|2||May 28||Pittsburgh Penguins||3-1||Chicago Blackhawks||2||0||2||4|
|3||May 30||Chicago Blackhawks||0-1||Pittsburgh Penguins||0||0||0||2|
|4||June 1||Chicago Blackhawks||5-6||Pittsburgh Penguins||1||2||23||7|
Embed from Getty Images
Mario Lemieux: Stanley Cups as an Owner
It is said that Mario Lemieux saved the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise twice – once as a player and once as an owner.
When Mario was drafted as a player the Penguins franchise was nothing more than an afterthought in the NHL. They had little success winning on the ice or getting fans in the seats to support them. Lemieux changed all of that by lifting the franchise on his shoulders and carrying them to two consecutive Stanley Cups.
The Penguins franchise hit hard times again after Lemieux retired (the first time). After so much success and winning, the smaller market Penguins franchise was having a hard time keeping up in the NHL in the late 1990s/early 2000s. The Penguins could simply not compete with the salaries being paid to the stars in the league by the wealthy franchises like Detroit, Colorado and the New York Rangers.
The Penguins would actually end up filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November 1998. Lemieux came in and offered to buy the franchise, which also owed him 32.5 million in deferred salary. Pittsburgh would end up trading many of their star players including Jaromir Jagr because they simply could not afford to pay them.
Pittsburgh would dig itself out of the pit as it started a rebuild around young players such as Marc-Andre Fleury, Evgeni Malkin, and Sidney Crosby. The NHL brought in a salary cap which helped the smaller market Penguins, as well as, Lemieux along with his partners spearheaded a new arena for the team.
This all led to what would culminate into 3 more Stanley cups for Lemieux and the Penguins.
Stanley Cup #3 – Pittsburgh Penguins 2009
The Penguins would have a rematch against the Detroit Red Wings, who beat them in the finals the year before. However, this time Pittsburgh would best them. The Penguins were down 3 games to 2, but would win two tightly contested games in Game 6 and Game 7. Evgeni Malkin would win the Conn Smythe trophy as most valuable player, and Lemieux would capture his first cup as an owner.
Stanley Cup #4 – Pittsburgh Penguins 2016
The Penguins would finally make it back to the finals since their win in 2009. This time they would face the San Jose Sharks, who were making their first appearance in their 25 year history. The Sharks would fight hard and pushed the series to 6 games, but the Penguins seemed like they were in control for much of it. The Penguins would end up winning the Stanley Cup 4-2 with the clinching game being held in San Jose. Sidney Crosby was awarded the Conn Smythe trophy as most valuable player.
Stanley Cup #5 – Pittsburgh Penguins 2017
Pittsburgh would make it back to the finals the very next year to defend their Stanley Cup. This time they would face another franchise who was in their first Stanley Cup finals playing against the Nashville Predators. The series mirrored the previous year’s series and was hard fought, but seemed as it was the Penguins to lose. Pittsburgh would end up winning their 5th Stanley Cup in Nashville, which made it all 5 Stanley Cups clinched on the road. Sidney Crosby would join Mario Lemieux as one of three players to win back-to-back Conn Smythe trophies.