Lemieux stays mum on sale, thrilled to see Crosby, Malkin get 2nd Cup
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Super Mario was always the big-game fisherman of hockey gods.
He reeled in a school of sharks Sunday night. And with that haul, Mario Lemieux's name will be etched onto the Stanley Cup for a fourth time in a few weeks.
Will it still be on the deed to the Penguins?
“I don't have any comment,” Lemieux said Sunday night after the Penguins won the Cup with a 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center.
“Ron (Burkle) and I still own the team, and we're happy where we are.”
Lemieux and Burkle lead a group that purchased the Penguins from bankruptcy in 1999. About a year ago, they hired Morgan Stanley to explore the possibility of selling the Penguins.
Before the Stanley Cup Final, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he was not aware of any ongoing sales process for the Penguins.
Before the hiring of Mike Sullivan as coach on Dec. 12, 2015, the Penguins did not seem like a bet to be playing anything other than golf six months later.
“For a few weeks there, that's what I thought I'd be doing,” general manager Jim Rutherford said.
Lemieux praised Rutherford's many moves — from the promotion of Sullivan to the insertion of younger, faster players into the lineup — for the Penguins' turnaround. He also credited the leadership of veterans such as captain Sidney Crosby and center Evgeni Malkin.
Crosby, the Conn Smythe winner as playoff MVP, joined Malkin and Lemieux as the only winners of that award for the Penguins. The big reward, Lemieux said, is the Cup.
And now, like Lemieux, Crosby and Malkin have won the Cup twice as Penguins' players.
“I think it's important for great players like Sid and Malkin to have two,” Lemieux said. “It's so hard to win it year after year. For them to win it again…
“Hopefully there (are) a few more for them. They are amazing players, the top two or three in the world, and I'm happy for both of them. They showed a lot throughout the playoffs.”
Rutherford, hired two years ago to bring the Penguins back among Cup contenders, said Lemieux and Burkle never “inserted themselves” into his decisions — even when the Penguins weren't guaranteed to make the playoffs for a 10th consecutive season.
The co-owners were always there if Rutherford needed to bounce ideas off somebody, he said. And Lemieux and Burkle said to spare no expense to upgrade the club throughout the offseason or during the season.
“They never say ‘no,' ” Penguins CEO David Morehouse said. “Anything we need anything, I've never had them say ‘no.'
“That's the kind of support they've given us. And that's why we were able to have the success we're having now.”
Lemieux, 50, has been a pivotal figure in every championship the Penguins have won. He was their leading scorer on the 1991-92 Cup clubs that he captained. Though it wasn't a Cup defense for the Penguins on Sunday night, Lemieux's second title as majority co-owner of the Penguins came seven years to the night of his first.
Unlike when the Penguins won the Cup at Detroit on June 12, 2009, Lemieux said he felt no need to send an inspiring text message to this group.
He did regret not having a chance to raise the Cup in Pittsburgh but stressed “we'll take it anywhere we can get it.”
Lemieux said he was aware of a packed house inside Consol Energy Center watching the Penguins' Game 6 win on a video board. Lemieux has made his home in Sewickley and reiterated his love for Western Pennsylvania.
“They've been great fans since I got there in (1984),” Lemieux said. “They've been supporting us forever, all the sellouts (dating to Feb. 14, 2007) — they're the greatest fans in the world, and we're going to have a little party for them in a few days.”
For what it's worth, San Jose has always offered the comforts of home to Lemieux. As a player, he hooked the Sharks for 17 goals and 32 assists in 14 games. According to legend, Lemieux once missed an entire West Coast trip, only to join the Penguins in San Jose specifically to play against the Sharks.
That memory brought a smile to Lemieux's face Sunday night.
“Yeah, but that was 25 years ago,” Lemieux said. “They were just starting. They're a great team. It was a great series.
“(The Sharks) deserve a lot of credit. They have a great franchise as well.”