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Another first for Super Mario

MARIO Lemieux added another first to a storied career with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday, becoming the first man to win the Stanley Cup as a player and then as an owner.

A feared scorer in his playing career, Lemieux saved the Pittsburgh franchise with electrifying play that lifted a moribund franchise in the 1980s and served as the bedrock for the Penguins first two Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992.

"It's a great night for all of our fans back home, the organization, the players," Lemieux said in an on-ice interview with NBC after the 2-1 Game 7 victory over the Red Wings in Detroit. "They have worked their whole life to make it happen."

The Hall of Famer saved the franchise again in the 1990s, converting a long-term contract into ownership after the team fell into bankruptcy. But the team continued to struggle financially, and on the ice, in the early years of the century.

A series of high draft picks helped the Penguins develop the nucleus of the team that won the Stanley Cup on Friday night, but it is likely they would have been playing elsewhere had it not been for the Lemieux ownership group.

The Penguins have played in their current arena since entering the league in the 1960s but Lemieux and his partners have negotiated a new arena, now under construction, to keep them in Pittsburgh.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman credited Lemieux with saving the Penguins and bringing them to the championship before handing the Stanley Cup trophy to Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby.

"This team was close to moving and Mario kept the team here and look at what happened," Penguins forward Maxime Talbot, who scored both of the Penguins' goals in Detroit on Friday, said.

Known for letting his game do the talking, Lemieux retired as a player in 2006 and is the seventh on the National Hockey League's all-time scoring list with 1,723 regular season points, even after missing numerous games due to injury and a battle with Hodgkin's disease.


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