Lemieux in for long haul
Mario Lemieux shoveled dirt on speculation his days as majority co-owner of the Penguins are numbered.
"Not for a while," Lemieux said Thursday of potentially selling his share in the NHL franchise his ownership group purchased in 1999. "As long as the ownership group is having fun and putting a good product on the ice, I'll be here for a while."
Those words from Lemieux came only minutes after he joined Penguins executives and state and local elected officials at a groundbreaking ceremony on the site of Pittsburgh's new $290 million arena.
That arena, which team chief executive officer Ken Sawyer said will open for the 2010-11 season, will include a statue honoring Lemieux, the all-time leading scorer in Penguins history.
"We'd be remiss if we didn't have that," Sawyer said of the to-be-designed statue, which will be positioned near the plaza entrance at the northwest corner of Centre Avenue.
Sawyer said revenue the Penguins expect to generate from the new arena allowed general manager Ray Shero to sign several young players to long-term contracts over the past two years - including captain Sidney Crosby, fellow center Evgeni Malkin and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
Lemieux, who said he is "always involved" in personnel decisions, added the Penguins are within $3 million or $4 million of the NHL's 2008-09 salary cap, $56.7 million. He said the team will be better positioned to "go to the cap" when the new arena opens.
The Penguins likely would have pressed against the cap for the upcoming season had right wing Marian Hossa not rejected three offers to stay in Pittsburgh. Hossa, who paced the team with 12 playoff goals in 20 postseason games last season, signed a one-year contract July 2 with the Detroit Red Wings.
"It was very disappointing," Lemieux said of Hossa's departure. "I thought he wanted to be part of what we've built here over the past couple of years - especially with Sid and Malkin, having two of the best players in the world."
Sawyer suggested the Penguins' new arena will be among the best in the world. He credited Ron Burkle, a California billionaire who serves as Lemieux's majority ownership partner, for securing funds last year.
"He became more hands-on during the (arena) process," Sawyer said of Burkle, who did not attend the groundbreaking ceremony. "He knows how to put deals together, and this deal was major and outside of the ordinary for us."
Burkle attended many Penguins playoff games on their run to the Stanley Cup final last season. His enthusiasm for the Penguins was on display when he flew to Nova Scotia for Crosby's surprise 21st birthday party Aug. 7.
Lemieux said Burkle is "having fun," and added that "the entire ownership group is very happy with the way business has been the past couple of years."
The Penguins have played before a franchise-record 67 consecutive home sellouts. They have renewed 99 percent of season tickets for the upcoming season.
"My goal when I came here in (1984) - I gave myself five years to build a great team," Lemieux said. "It took a little longer, but I knew from the start it was a good hockey city."
Note: At least six Penguins games will be televised nationally this season. NBC will air a game Jan. 18 at Mellon Arena against the New York Rangers. That network can select three more Sunday games involving the Penguins in the second half of the season. Cable network Versus will broadcast five Penguins games. FSN Pittsburgh will air all remaining regular-season games.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Analysis: Where do the Penguins, Wilkes-Barre club go from here?
- AHL goaltender Murray strumming favor with Penguins
- Penguins GM Rutherford: Medical updates upcoming
- AHL wing prospect Sheary an intriguing option for Penguins
- Starkey: Pens made right call on Babcock
- GM Rutherford says Penguins aren’t interested in Babcock