How would it feel to have your hockey team coached by one of the greatest hockey players to grace the ice – Mario Lemieux?
The Gannon University club hockey team didn’t obtain Super Mario as an assistant coach, but the Knights have added a Lemieux to the coaching staff.
Alain Lemieux, older brother to Mario, was drafted by the NHL’s St. Louis Blues with the 96th pick in 1980. Lemieux tallied 72 points in 119 games in the NHL between the 1981 and 1987 seasons while moving from St. Louis to Quebec, and then finishing his career as a Pittsburgh Penguin.
Lemieux grew up four years apart from his younger brother. Lemieux said Mario always played up a level, but they rarely had the opportunity to play together in organized hockey.
“We knew he was something special because when he was playing at the peewee level there were hockey companies coming to the door and offering hockey equipment for life,” Lemieux said.
The clinic Saturday was held at Valley Sports Complex in New Kensington, Pa. – Alain Lemieux’s ice hockey rink. It was a chance for Lemieux to meet with the team for the first time and use his vast knowledge of the game to help Gannon’s offensive and defensive systems.
Lemieux started the clinic with an hour of skating drills to get players’ feet moving and work on conditioning. Lemieux said that when he talks to all of this youth hockey teams, he emphasizes that you are only as good as you can skate. This idea was echoed to the team repeatedly throughout the festivities Saturday.
“I was surprised by the caliber of Gannon players that skated during the clinic,” Lemieux said. “The team worked very hard and made my job easy.”
Lemieux slated a time after the first skate to get a workout in the weight room at the complex. The teammates paired off and worked on explosion and plyometric drills led by Lemieux. He mentioned the importance of conditioning, and said that while growing up, he and Mario would be on outdoor rinks for as long as they could seven days a week.
The team had a lunch break before taking to the ice again to work on offensive, defensive and power play situations. After the clinic wrapped up, the team had the chance to converse with Lemieux and hear stories about the NHL in the ‘80s and how the game has changed over the years.
“Competition is incredible now at every level,” Lemieux said, “especially for youth hockey in Pittsburgh with Mario coming in ’84.”
Lemieux said he was looking forward to continuing his assistance by working with the Knights and the team’s general manager, Rev Jason Glover for the remainder of the season.
“I am working together with Father Glover for follow-up skates and training in Erie 4-5 more times this year,” Lemieux said. “I want to come watch a game and stay to work on things the following day in practice.”
The Gannon ice hockey team is looking to take the next step at the national championships, and with a new-looking coaching staff and the guidance of Father Glover, the team appears to be heading in the right direction.