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McKenzie: The two other guys in that Magnificent tribute

Bob McKenzie

3/7/2012 1:35:55 PM

So, Rich Pilon, how does it feel to be immortalized in the bronze Mario Lemieux statue unveiled today in Pittsburgh, with Le Magnifique splitting the New York Islander defence pairing of Pilon and Jeff Norton for all eternity?

"To tell you the truth, it's very cool," Pilon told TSN, just minutes after the statue was unveiled in Pittsburgh. "I have no problem with it. If you're going to get beat on a play and it's there for everyone to see forever, it might as well be Mario. He did that to a lot of defencemen."

Pilon wasn't aware he was part of the statue until he got a text shortly after 12 noon today from his old buddy and former teammate Dean Chynoweth.

"I remember the play pretty well," Pilon said. "I have the photo, actually. Someone I know had a hockey calendar with that photo (taken by Sports Illustrated's Paul Bereswill) and they sent to me. It's right up there on my office wall. So I remember the play well. Mario scored a lot of his big goals against the Islanders.

"That was my rookie season (Dec. 20, 1988). No shame in a rookie getting beaten like that by Mario. It was a privilege just to play in the NHL and against players like Mario."

The Penguins say they chose that particular image as the basis for the statue because "it was a metaphor for everything Lemieux accomplished in his career and his life, breaking through defenders, overcoming obstacles, turning back challenges."

Pilon certainly recovered from that Lemieux goal. He went on to play 631 regular season games over 14 NHL seasons, mostly with the Islanders but also the New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues.

The 43-year-old is now living in Saskatoon with his wife and two children. He notes he's been sober for seven years and life is good, working with Cameco, the uranium mining company.

"I'm doing a project called Dream and Believe," Pilon said. "It's aimed at kids eight to 14 years old in northern Saskatchewan communities and we're using hockey to help them stay away from (substance abuse). So I'm at a good place right now and doing well."

And that's even with Mario beating him and Norton for all eternity.