Like a soaring pterodactyl, Mario Lemieux swooped into the offensive zone with the puck on his stick (or was it attached to his stick?), backed off two frozen Capitals' old-timers, slowed his glide to a near standstill, and then did what Mario Lemieux did so frequently during his playing days - made a drop pass that floated seemingly into empty space, only to arrive perfectly on the stick of one of his linemates. And then the recipient of this drop pass, who too often on this day was, inexplicably, #23 Gary Rissling, did what recipients of Mario's drop passes often did in the 1990's - made another drop pass. And then the recipient of this second drop pass, perhaps a 300lb Kevin Stevens or a trying-a-little-too-hard Phil Bourque did what the second drop pass recipient often did - made another drop pass.
When the Pens' alumni weren't making drop passes on this gray yet sunny morning, they were playing the Capitals' alumni to an unsatisfying 5-5 tie, and the decision to end in a tie pleased no one, save for Kevin Stevens who was one hop over the boards away from a heart-attack.
|Leaning on his stick.|
I was fortunate enough to be in attendance for this memorable (albeit nearly silent) event to witness what might have been Mario Lemieux's final public appearance in any hockey-related competition. Although he may have taken one stride the entire game and glided the rest of the morning, he still was a towering presence, both literally and figuratively. He had a separate introduction to a tape of John Barbaro's voice, a heart-warming and nostalgic touch. He was followed on an isolation camera for much of warm-ups and then was, for reasons unknown but understood, given a second special individual introduction. On his first shift, the jumbo-tron camera followed only Mario. On his second shift, it pretty much did the same thing. Around Mario's third shift, Dan Potash did what Dan Potash is paid to do - lob softballs to Mario. Mario, with his trademark half-grin, knocked the softballs out of the park. On his fourth shift, or maybe even earlier, Mario banked a pass in off his personal backboard, Rob Brown.
|Mario looks like their camp counselor.|
|Definitely more exciting than shootout.|
After the jump, more thoughts and more pictures...