There are some who believe in a higher power and there are some who don’t. However, as I watched Pittsburgh Penguins great and owner Mario Lemieux field questions from reporters regarding his team’s 2-0 Stanley Cup victory over the Nashville Predators as well as the comeback season that provided Pittsburgh with their fifth Stanley Cup, my mind hit rewind allowing me to recall part of the journey to “today.”
I also thought of the fifth and sixth verses of the 23rd Psalm, taken from the Holy Bible. “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
The Penguins were forced to win the Stanley Cup in enemy territory and the Nashville Predators fans more than vocalized their displeasure at the enemies from the Steel City hoisting the trophy of victory in their house, with the stench of dead catfish providing the perfect backdrop for a unique and different fan base that mistakenly confused team support and loyalty with “stinkin’ thinkin.’”
The Nashville fans even hung around to boo the official trophy presentation. If the Predators fans had done their homework, they would have realized that comebacks are the rule, rather than the exception with the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey club.
Still in the midst of a sparkling career in January 1993, the Hall-of-Fame career of Lemieux was put on hold, while he was forced to board a train traveling at warp speed toward an uncertain future. On January 13, 1993, the Associated Press headline read, “Lemieux Has Hodgkin’s Disease; Doesn’t Appear Life-Threatening.” The article, in part, read, “Mario Lemieux’s condition was diagnosed as Hodgkin’s disease on Tuesday, but his doctor said the cancer didn’t appear to be life-threatening. Lemieux was found to be in the early stages of the disease after a large lymph node was removed from his neck, according to a statement issued by the Pittsburgh Penguins and approved by team physician Charles Burke. The Penguins said Lemieux, who recently signed a seven-year, $42-million contract, could return to the lineup in four to six weeks, although that projection could change, depending on his response to radiation treatment.”