It is both convenient and predictable for Lemieux to hide in the background at a time when the game most needs its relevant stars in place, because it's always been about convenience for Lemieux.
It's curious how suddenly available and accessible Lemieux was when he took an ownership stake in the team because he was owed millions of dollars in the late 1990s. The more attention focused on the Penguins meant more ticket sales and a better chance at either a new arena deal or a deal to sell the team.
Then, when Lemieux decided he was going to play for Canada at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and was named captain of the squad, he couldn't have been more gracious; but, after that was over, when he didn't need the attention, not so much.
Later, when talks to build a new arena in Pittsburgh broke down and Lemieux was at war with local politicians and officials over funding for the project, he was once again available to discuss the issue. He was prepared to sell the team to whoever walked in the door. A couple of suitors, including Jim Balsillie and William "Boots" Del Biaggio, would undoubtedly have tried to move the team as quickly as possible to Southern Ontario or Kansas City, but that fact seems lost in the renaissance of the team.
Not that anyone could blame Lemieux for trying to get the most out this team
financially. He's done his time and served the team and the city well.
But let's not paint this with any other brush than what it deserves. The only reason
Lemieux isn't making himself available during these finals is because there's
nothing in it for him.
And that's more than a little sad.
Mario Lemieux talking to reporters is not going to make millions of casual sports fans tune in, nor drum up significant interest. The Penguins, especially Sidney Crosby, are deep enough in Lemieux's shadow and him in the spotlight would not only unfairly detract from the moment that they've earned through their excellent play this season but also make Lemieux a target from the same media about how he doesn't know when to drop into the background.
Lemieux has always been a very gracious, but cautious public figure. To see him in the picture (but clearly remaining in the background) is a very kind way to let the new kids have their moment.
And that's a little more than admirable. GFY, Scott Burnside.