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Details of Lemieux statue surface

| Sunday, Dec. 19, 2010

Mario Lemieux doesn't look like a guy ready for a statue just yet — at least not according to Penguins employees against whom he played last week in afternoon staff games at Consol Energy Center.

Lemieux, 45, is using the staff games, which feature the team's coaching staff, to train for the Dec. 31 alumni game between the Penguins and Washington Capitals at Heinz Field.

"After about 10 minutes ... he was doing pretty much whatever he wanted out there," said Jason Seidling of the media relations staff, a defenseman in the staff games.

The Penguins were rumored to be planning a statue for Lemieux to be dedicated Dec. 27 — the 10th anniversary of his shocking comeback as a player after a 3 1/2-year retirement. He scored 35 goals and 76 points in 43 games that season.

A California artist, visited by team officials this summer and chosen for the project, is working on the statue. Team officials declined comment, but there is optimism for a dedication of the franchise's first statue sometime in 2011.

From conversations with several sources, some details have surfaced:

• It will capture Lemieux circa 1988-89, statistically his best season and one of the elite in NHL history, with Lemieux posting 85 goals and 199 points.

• The design is Lemieux splitting two unidentified defensemen, each from the New York Islanders. Surnames and numbers are not likely to appear on the opposing players' sweaters per Lemieux's request.

• The statue will rest at the front of Trib Total Media Gate at Consol Energy Center along Fifth Avenue a few steps south of Mario Lemieux Place, behind Civic Arena. A section already is bricked off, with potted plants holding the place where the statue will be situated.

• Members of the Penguins ownership group are paying for the statue as a gift to Lemieux. This is not part of the new arena's original $321 million price tag.

Soon enough Pittsburgh's other iconic sports statues — Art Rooney Sr. of the Steelers; and Honus Wagner, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and Bill Mazeroski of the Pirates — will be joined by a Super addition.

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