Pittsburgh Penguins Hall of Fame center Mario Lemieux is interviewed outside the NHL hockey team\'s arena after the statue of him at right was unveiled on Wednesday, March 7, 2012 in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
PITTSBURGH, Pa. - Mario Lemieux spent his Hall-of-Fame career toying with defenders. Now one such moment has been frozen in time.
The Pittsburgh Penguins unveiled a 4,700-pound bronze statue honouring Lemieux outside Consol Energy Center on Wednesday. The statue depicts Lemieux splitting a pair of defencemen on his way to scoring a goal against the New York Islanders in 1988.
Sculptor Bruce Wolfe spent 15 months on the project, which is based on a picture that ran in Sports Illustrated. Lemieux called it a "special day" during a brief ceremony.
"I have the picture at home," Lemieux said. "I looked at the tape last week, but I don't remember it."
Now he'll have a daily reminder on his way to work.
The team considered several options before selecting the image, one Lemieux believes is emblematic of his spectacular career.
"On the ice, Mario powered his way past defencemen to score incredible goals," Penguins CEO David Morehouse said. "Off the ice, he overcame and broke through so many challenges."
Lemieux scored 690 goals during his 17 seasons in the league, a tenure that was broken up with a cancer scare and a three-year retirement. He led the Penguins to consecutive Stanley Cups in 1991-92 and was a three-time MVP.
The play Wolfe captured was the 247h goal of Lemieux's career, a spectacular play in which he split New York defencemen Rich Pilon and Jeff Norton then slipped the puck past goaltender Kelly Hrudey as the Penguins went on to win 5-3.
"It illustrates my career on and off the ice," Lemieux said. "I was known for breakaways early in my career and in the early '90s, so this was a perfect photo that we picked."