Lemieux, Citing Fatigue, Won’t Play in ’94-95 Season
Mario Lemieux of the Pittsburgh Penguins, one of the NHL’s greatest players, confirmed Monday he will sit out the 1994-95 season to recuperate from lingering fatigue.
An aftereffect of radiation treatments for cancer and a dozen cortisone shots for back pain since 1991, the fatigue developed after radiation therapy in January and February 1993.
Lemieux will not decide for another year if he will play again, but says he won’t return if he cannot play at a high level.
“I don’t want to come back until I can play the way Mario Lemieux can play,” said Lemieux, who will be 29 in October. “If I feel I’m not able to go on the ice and be close to 100%, another decision will have to be made.”
Lemieux said he plans to restart in September 1995 if his strength returns and his doctors agree his health won’t be jeopardized.
“It’s been very difficult the last couple of years, but I want everybody to know I still love the game of hockey,” Lemieux said. “It’s not a hockey issue, it’s a health issue.”
Medical tests this month detected no recurrence of the Hodgkin’s disease or the anemia he developed late last season, only the fatigue.
“I need to regain the strength I had two years ago,” Lemieux said. “I can’t train the way I want. I get tired very quickly. The stamina is not the same it was at the end of last season.”
He said it is difficult.
“Right now, it’s hard to think that way (to have the desire to play),” he said.
One of the greatest scorers and playmakers in NHL history, the four-time scoring champion and two-time most valuable player hasn’t played a full season since he was 23. He had back operations in 1990 and 1993, a rare bone infection resulting from his first surgery, cancer and anemia. Hodgkin’s disease is a form of cancer that attacks the lymph nodes.
“He’s had a lot of trauma and medication. . . . He’s been punched and prodded and poked and zapped and rezapped,” agent Tom Reich said. “It’s a very, very difficult decision that’s been made, but (medically) it was a crystal-clear decision.”
Eddie Johnston, rehired as the Penguins’ coach 14 months ago on Lemieux’s recommendation, said his team will be good without Lemieux, perhaps even good enough to win a third Stanley Cup in five years.
Penguin owner Howard Baldwin, who will pay Lemieux even as he sits out the season, offered refunds to any season-ticket holders who have lost interest because Lemieux won’t play.