Lemieux has procedure to restore normal heart rhythm

PITTSBURGH (Ticker) - Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux underwent a procedure to restore a normal heart rhythm, the team announced on Monday.

Lemieux, who retired as a player last month, had been diagnosed with a heart condition known as atrial fibrillation.

Penguins trainer Mark Mortland said the goal of the “ablation” procedure that Lemieux underwent was to prevent him from taking medication to control an irregular heartbeat.

Lemieux cited an inability to play at his best any longer due to health reasons when he decided to end his Hall of Fame playing career on January 24.

Lemieux recently stepped down as CEO of the Penguins but still serves as chairman of the board and wants to sell the team to a group that would keep the team in Pittsburgh.

The 40-year-old Lemieux is virtually synonymous with the Penguins after saving the franchise as a player and owner. But he had not played since December 16 because of problems caused by an irregular heartbeat.

In 26 games this season, the superstar center had seven goals and 15 assists. He recorded an assist in what turned out to be his last NHL game on December 16 against Buffalo at Mellon Arena.

Lemieux retired for the first time in 1997 due to back problems and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame later that year.

After saving the debt-ridden franchise as a player after he was drafted No. 1 overall in 1984, Lemieux did it again as an owner, assembling a group of investors to buy the team out of bankruptcy in September 1999.

A three-time MVP and six-time scoring champion, Lemieux is the NHL’s seventh all-time leading scorer with 1,723 points in 915 games - all with the Penguins. His total of 690 goals ranks eighth and his 1,033 assists is 10th on the all-time list.

Lemieux led the Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cup titles in 1991 and 1992, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP both times.

A 13-time All-Star, Lemieux faced and overcame numerous physical ailments in his career. He battled Hodgkin’s disease in 1993 and also had two major back surgeries and two hip surgeries.

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Updated Monday, Feb 27, 2006