March 20, 2015

More on Mario Lemieux and Guy Lafleur

The photo above, rediscovered by Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette, piqued my interest about Mario Lemieux's heroes growing up. It also made me realize I've never seen another photo with Lemieux and Lafleur together.

We all have hockey heroes, and while Guy Lafleur is an obvious fit for Mario, we haven't really heard about it like we have with Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe, for example. I want to learn more about their relationship.

When I want to check up on Mario Lemieux's background, the first place I usually turn is Lawrence Martin's 1993 biography "Mario."

Martin was a political correspondent in Moscow and Washington for the Globe and Mail. He also had a serious interest in hockey, most famously writing The Red Machine, a definitive history of Soviet hockey. His Mario biography is nearly as good.

On page 30 he references the photo above, though he incorrectly suggests the Lafleur celebration was for his 500th goal rather than his 1000th point. He also has the date wrong.

"Mario's appearances (at the Montreal Forum) included one with his idol in the 1970s, Guy Lafleur. He was at the Forum sitting right behind the Canadiens' bench when the Flower scored his 500th goal. Pierrette Lemieux treasured a picture showing Lafleur in celebration and her son in the background reacting to the goal. In her home, which would become a shrine to her boy's story, it took a proud place."

By the way, for another great story from the book read this passage about Pierrette Lemieux, Mario's crazy hockey mom.

Unfortunately the rest of the book never really touches on Mario's hero worship of Lafleur other than to say as Mario advanced in his teenage years he began to idolize Wayne Gretzky more and more. Which makes sense. Lafleur's production and success was waning, and Gretzky was at the top of his game.

The book goes into good detail about Lemieux chasing and breaking many of Guy Lafleur's Quebec junior records. It also touches briefly on Lafleur's NHL comeback and how he and Mario campaigned for it to happen in Pittsburgh. However Pittsburgh's GM Tony Esposito didn't think it was such a good idea, obviously. Lafleur signed with the Rangers, but it was clear at that point the two had long been good friends.

My search for some comments by Lemieux on his hero, Guy Lafleur, continues. Lemieux is an intensely private person so digging for such info on him is harder than many. For example - have you ever seen another photo of Mario and Guy Lafleur together?

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