Remember when Mario Lemieux entered the NHL?
A big talented goal – scoring machine. He started scoring and racking up points by the dozens. There was no doubt of his talent. A big draw. Someone who not only filled the Igloo – a skater who filled seats around the NHL.
Mario was a star player with one knock against him. A label which haunted him for the first few years of his career. Until the moment he played alongside Gretzky in the Canada Cup in 1987.
Just like that – Lemieux’s reputation of being ‘lazy’ climbed from the bottom of the character ladder to the shelf above. A storage area marked forever with the word; respect.
In a Canadian kind of way … Mario Lemieux was a pre – cursor to the modern day Russian hockey player.
The New Guy
Enter an eighteen year year old, six foot three – two hundred pound kid from Russia. A forward recently named the CHL’s player of the year. The award goes to the player who best exemplifies achievement, dedication and sportsmanship to the sport of hockey.
So why does everyone doubt his ability to make it in the NHL? The same reason people once upon an ice surface said Lemieux would never win a Stanley Cup.
“I just want to show them I’m a good guy,” said Grigorenko, a gifted offensive player who has been on the defensive since a poor playoff performance caused his draft stock to fall recently. “I had that question about my work ethic from one team.”
Sound familiar hockey fans?
Lemieux’s size and the way he skated, made him seem ‘lazy’ on the ice. Sometimes a player is cursed by the very God given talent he or she has been born with. A player such as Lemieux and now – Grigorenko, appear like lily pads floating on a frozen pond. It does not matter if the player averages two points a game. Somehow irrelevant if that player wins a scoring race. It’s all about the image. Throw a bit of jealousy into the mix – a negative way to attempt to play hockey and enjoy a love affair with the sport that comes easy.
Grigorenko led the Remparts with 85 points in 59 games during the 2011 – 2012 season. In Lemieux’s third season with Pittsburgh, a season in which the ‘lazy’ tag became the norm, ‘Super Mario’ tabulated 107 points in 63 games. It was the first time in Pittsburgh he finished on the proper side in the +|- column (+13). In three seasons, Mario managed to accumulate 348 points – a half a career for almost every forward to have played the game at a professional level.
Grigorenko is quite capable of obtaining the same numbers as Lemieux in the NHL. Especially since the game has opened up from Mario’s playing days ( imagine the points for Lemieux with no red line?).
First – the Russian has to forget about the naysayers. Guys like Craig Button. A TSN scout who dropped his opinion of Grigorenko. An insight which left the Russian rated twentieth in the upcoming draft ( Button had him sixth in December).Grigorenko must remember it is him and only him who knows what it felt like to play through the lingering symptoms of mononucleosis – an ilness whose effects diminished his play in the Remparts’ playoff collapse.
“They’ve been asking what happened in the playoffs,” Grigorenko said. “I don’t think I had a bad playoff because the first round was good. The first round I had seven points in four games. But after I got mono, I didn’t have lots of energy.”
Grigorenko, who developed a severe fever and had difficulty sleeping, said he probably should not have played. Now, his decision to play is haunting him with every stride. If he were not Russian and a big boy with so much skill – Button would be praising him. Grigorenko is a victim of two types of racism.
An anti – Russian rant caused by the likes of Alexei Kovalev and an anti – big man image brought on by the likes of Mario Lemieux.
As most are aware – ignorance breeds racism. In Lemieux’s time, Mario also dealt with an anti- French sentiment amongst his peers. A double whammy which Mario rose above and conquered to become one of the greatest players in the history of the game.
Grigorenko should give Mario Lemieux a call…