Of course, Mario Lemieux had a rare career, one that led to a big net worth.
Early Life & Hockey Career
Mario Lemieux was born to Pierrette and Jean-Guy Lemieux in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Of course, with names like “Pierrette” and “Jean-Guy,” perhaps we didn’t need to tell you that he’s French-Canadian.
It’s part of the Lemieux mythos that he came from a working-class family and first began playing hockey with wooden spoons and bottle caps. It’s also part of the legend that his family used to pack snow into their home so Mario and his brothers could play hockey after dark.
The supremely talented forward began earning his nickname “Le Magnifique,” or “The Magnificent One,” playing for the Laval Voisins in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
In his final season in the league, Lemieux racked up 133 goals and 149 assists in 70 games. No, those numbers aren’t typos. Needless to say, he was considered the top player available in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft, now widely considered one of the greatest drafts of all time.
The Pittsburgh Penguins took Lemieux with the first pick, which was vital for a franchise that had already declared bankruptcy in the 1970s and was barely drawing fans. Then, in his first NHL game, Lemieux stole the puck from Boston Bruins defenseman Ray Bourque — another future Hall of Famer — and scored a goal on his first NHL shot.
It was a sign of things to come.
“Super Mario” would end his rookie campaign with 100 points and the Calder Trophy. In the 1987-88 season, Lemieux would end Gretzky’s stranglehold on the Art Ross Trophy by notching 168 points. He would also win his first Hart Memorial Trophy as the most valuable player.
Lemieux would repeat as the Art Ross winner in 1989 with genuinely stunning numbers: 85 goals and 199 points. Lemieux also led the Penguins to the playoffs for the first time.
By the early 1990s, Lemieux had joined forces with Jaromir Jagr to create one of the most impressive duos in hockey history. However, a damper was put on the 1990-91 season, as Lemieux was held to 22 regular-season games with a back injury. He was good to go for the playoffs, though and posted a staggering 44 points in 23 games.
As a result, the Penguins won their first Stanley Cup. Lemieux was unsurprisingly named the Conn Smythe winner as postseason MVP.
The following season “Super Mario” won the Art Ross despite only playing in 64 games. Then, Pittsburgh returned to the Stanley Cup Final and won their second of back-to-back titles.
The Penguins, and Lemieux, were riding high, but then the 1992-93 season provided a real damper.
In January 1993, well on the way to another incredible season, Lemieux announced that he had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Radiation treatments would cause Lemieux to miss two months of the season. After that, nobody knew if he would ever play again, and if he did, how would he look?
Lemieux would return, though, traveling to Philadelphia on the day of his final treatment to play against the Flyers. Even Philly sports fans gave Lemieux a standing ovation before the game.
Then Lemieux scored a goal and assisted in the game, but the Flyers still won 5-4, keeping the Philly fans from regretting their cheers too much.
With Lemieux back in the lineup, the Penguins won 17 games in a row and set a franchise record with 119 points. Oh, also “Super Mario” managed to net 160 points in only 60 games and won the Hart Memorial trophy once again.
Lemieux would add another Hart in 1996 and then decided to retire after the 1997 season. So the Hockey Hall of Fame waived their traditional waiting period and immediately inducted him.
It was the end of an incredible NHL career — except that it wasn’t.
Mario Lemieux: The Owner (& His Return)
Remember the Penguins’ financial woes in the 1970s? Yeah, they never really went away. In 1998, the Penguins filed for bankruptcy again. There was talk of the team moving, or perhaps even folding like the Cleveland Barons.
Then, Lemieux stepped in. The Penguins’ owners owed money to many people, but they owed nobody more money than Lemieux, as $32.5 million in deferred salary had yet to be paid.
“The Magnificent One” pitched to the bankruptcy court that he would turn $20 million of that deferred salary into equity and throw in another $5 million to gain majority control of the team. This was agreed to, and Lemieux became the principal owner of his old team.
Once again, Lemieux was making NHL history.
Being an owner wasn’t enough for Lemieux, though. He got the itch and, in 2000, decided to return to the ice and play for the team he owned like a regular Jackie Moon. The $500,000 deal from Nike to endorse their products for the rest of his career probably helped.
Lemieux joined the team late in the 2000-01 season, but still managed 76 points in 43 games even though, you know, he had been retired for years. His last hurrah as a viable NHL player came in the 2002-03 season when he had 91 points in 67 games.
Despite Lemieux’s heroics, the Penguins were terrible. Like, picking in the top-two multiple times bad. This did allow the team to add a couple vital pieces for their future, though, in Marc-Andre Fleury and Evgeni Malkin. But then, the Pens managed to win the lottery to select Sidney Crosby, who many considered the best NHL prospect since, well, Mario Lemieux.
After the lockout, Lemieux returned to play alongside Crosby, but it was not meant to be. Instead, he only played in 26 games, tallying 22 points, before retiring for good at 40.
A 12-time All-Star (and three-time All-Star Game MVP), Lemieux was one of the most prolific scorers of any era. He retired with 690 career goals in 915 regular-season games, plus 76 more goals in 107 playoff games for good measure.
Mario Lemieux Net Worth & Personal Life
Fortunately, Austin survived and grew up normally, even playing college hockey at Arizona State University. Lemieux has said that one of the main reasons he returned to the NHL was so Austin could see him play.
“Super Mario” is still the owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, along with Ronald Burkle. He has also added three more Stanley Cup championships as the owner, as that Crosby kid turned out to be pretty good.
The man that Bobby Orr called “the most talented player I’ve ever seen” has the money to show for all that talent. According to Celebrity Net Worth, Mario Lemieux’s net worth is a whopping $200 million.
If Lemieux ever wanted to sell the Penguins, he could become one of the wealthiest former NHL players based on how the franchise value has soared. But then again, can you imagine “Super Mario” ever not being part of the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise?
He saved the team as a player. He saved the team as an owner. Even Wayne Gretzky can’t say that.