Hockey Legend Mario Lemieux Helps Fund New Childhood Lymphoma Center

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Back in the fall of 1992, Pittsburgh Penguins star Mario Lemieux was blowing away the rest of the National Hockey League with some of the most amazing statistics ever recorded in pro hockey. Through the first 40 games, the 6'6" superstar had scored 39 goals and 65 assists for 104 points. Nobody else was even close.

But then in early January of 1993 came the shock of a lifetime: Mario was diagnosed with early-stage Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Treatment began almost immediately. For Mario, this meant radiotherapy only (no chemotherapy). For just under two months Mario received radiation treatments.

He underwent his final treatment on the afternoon of 2 March 1993, and was in Philadelphia that night to play his first game back. Despite the bitter rivalry between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Mario received an ovation from the Philly faithful. In the game, he registered a goal and an assist. That's one of the all-time great sports stories, according to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

From there, he wouldn't skip a beat, scoring a miraculous 30 goals and 26 assists during the final 20 games of the season. Thus in just 60 games that year, Mario scored 69 goals and 91 assists for 160 points in just 60 games. Playing in one quarter fewer games than virtually everyone else, he still won the league scoring title, easily beating out Buffalo's Pat Lafontaine, who tallied 148 points in 84 games.

Mario and Rare Lymphomas

These days Lemieux is a Hall-of-Famer and co-owner of those same Pittsburgh Penguins, but he is also the head of the Mario Lemieux Foundation, which he founded during that very remarkable year for him, 1993.

Yesterday it was announced that the Foundation would be partnering with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) to create the $5 million Mario Lemieux Lymphoma Center for Children and Young Adults, to be housed at Children's Hospital of UPMC in Lawrenceville.

"The support of the Lemieux Foundation gives us the ability to enhance our basic and clinical research in a way that could lead to improved and potentially new treatments for patients around the world who currently have very limited options," said Linda McAllister-Lucas, chief of the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology who will lead the new center.

"I was fortunate to have a type of lymphoma that has proven treatments with good outcomes," added Mario. "I want to create a place of hope for kids and young adults and their families who are diagnosed with lymphomas that have no known cures."

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