Mario Lemieux was inauspiciously absent for the majority of the Pittsburgh Penguins' 2022-23 season. Ownership does not expect that to be the case moving forward.
Several days after the team's 16-year playoff streak, and a day after with president Brian Burke, general manager Ron Hextall and assistant general manager Chris Pryor, Penguins alternative governor Dave Beeston was asked about Lemieux and his possible role with with the team moving forward. Lemieux was a Penguins majority owner before his group sold ownership of the team to Fenway Sports Group in December of 2021. He has maintained a minority ownership.
"He is, of course, not only welcome, but wanted back whenever he wants," Beeston said. "I expect that will be the case moving forward. Working with him and getting to know him through this process has been a special gift for me. He is incredible."
A financial dispute was the reason why Lemieux distanced himself from the team over the past year, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. A group of Penguins minority owners sued Lemieux and fellow former team co-owner Ron Burkle, accusing them of pushing the deal with Fenway Sports Group without their input. Lemieux and Burkle handled the attorney fees (the suit was settled) but figured that they would get more equity with FSG. Neither side could come to an agreement, however.
Based on Beeston's comments, it appears that the two sides have mended fences, paving the way for the franchise's most iconic figure to once again have a more prominent role with the club. Lemieux, who as a player led the Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cup wins in 1991-92, hoisted the cup three more times as the team's co-owner in 2009, 2016 and in 2017.
Lemieux's anticipated return will surely come as welcomed news for Penguins fans who are frustrated with the current state of the team. While the team's aging core of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang played at high levels this past season, the team's lack of a supporting cast around them contributed mightily to . Poor goaltending also contributed to what was a disappointing season for the Penguins, who have won just one playoff series since their 2017 Cup win.