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Thursday, October 5, 2006
Penguins once again raise Lemieux banner

Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- Mario Lemieux's No. 66 jersey banner was raised again to the Mellon Arena ceiling Thursday, nine months after the Hall of Fame center retired from the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second time.

The banner recognizing Lemieux's career, unveiled after he retired in 1997, was taken down after he came out of retirement in 2000. The new banner updates the length of Lemieux's career, which began as the No. 1 pick in the 1984 draft.

The brief ceremony was held minutes before the Penguins' home opener, and on the same day Lemieux's ownership group agreed to sell the 39-year-old franchise to Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie.

After a heart problem forced Lemieux to retire again in January, he asked that the Penguins not hold an elaborate ceremony. Thursday's banner raising lasted only a few minutes, with new Penguins star Sidney Crosby promising during a message to the fans that the team would try to play up to Lemieux's standards in every game.

Crosby, in a taped message shown on the arena scoreboard, also said he felt honored to have played part of his rookie season with Lemieux. As he did last season, the 19-year-old Crosby is living in Lemieux's house this season.

Lemieux, watching from a private box with his family, sat and waved to the crowd. As the standing ovation grew louder, Lemieux stood up, waved and smiled for about 30 seconds.