December 27, 2000: Mario Lemieux returned to the ice for the Pittsburgh Penguins after a 3 1/2-year absence from the game. He was also the team's owner at the time, making him the first owner-player in the modern era of pro sports.

Lemieux's brilliant career was plagued due to cancer and injuries and he retired from the game in 1997. The Hockey Hall of Fame waived the normal three-year waiting period and immediately inducted Lemieux (he's only the 9th player in history to have that happen).

Before his retirement, Lemieux had led the Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992. He was also a three-time Hart Trophy award-winner (MVP of the league).

But Super Mario's legacy wouldn't end with his retirement in 1997, as he would shock the sports world by announcing his return to the ice and would become only the third Hall of Famer in hockey history to play again after being inducted (Gordie Howe and Guy Lafleur). In the December 27th game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Lemieux not only returned, he showed he never lost his scoring touch — he had scoring a goal and three points, including an assist 33 seconds into the first shift of his return.

Amazingly, despite playing in only 43 games in 2000–01, Lemieux scored 76 points to finish 26th in scoring, finishing the season with the highest points-per-game average that season among NHL players. He not only played that season, but went on to skate for Pittsburgh until 2006 when he announced his second retirement.

Lemieux would win the Cup again as an owner in 2009, making him the first-ever to have his name on the Cup as both a player and an owner.

Here's to you Mario Lemieux.

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