PITTSBURGH -- Owner-player Mario Lemieux won't accept the $5 million raise tentatively promised him by the Pittsburgh Penguins' board as the money-losing team tries to keep its debt at a manageable level.
With the Penguins last in the NHL's overall standings and their
attendance at its lowest level since the mid-1980s, president Ken
Sawyer said Monday the team will lose about $5 million this season
even with Lemieux's rollback.
Lemieux drew media and fan criticism after it was disclosed the
board had nearly doubled his salary as player and chief executive
officer to $10 million. Lemieux was given the raise even after the
team shed stars such as Jaromir Jagr, Robert Lang and Alexei Kovalev to cut its payroll to a league-low $23 million.
Lemieux makes $5.25 million as a player, or several million
dollars below what most of the NHL's major stars make.
The pay raise, designed to make Lemieux's salary comparable to
stars such as Jagr and Peter Forsberg, was contingent upon the
Penguins reaching certain revenue levels.
With attendance down by a league-worst 3,200 per game from this
time a year ago -- the Penguins averaged 12,076 for their first 11
home games -- Lemieux decided to not make the pay raise any issue
"Rather than wait for us to bring this up, Mario stepped up to
key members of our board and said basically, 'My salary is going to
be rolled back to where it was last year and the year before. We
need to respect the bottom line,' " Sawyer said.
Lemieux, who has not spoken to reporters for nearly a month as
he sits out with a left hip flexor, did not talk Monday about his