Mingle with hockey royalty at Mario Lemieux’s Fantasy Camp.

As children and adolescent sports fans we all have those moments. we’re scampering around our bedrooms, backyards or neighborhood parks enacting, second by breathtaking second, the closing moments of the biggest games. Many can remember whispering the final seconds aloud. 3… 2… 1… before letting the final game winning shot off, leaping wildly to a horde of screaming imaginary fans. These are the moments that transition many of us into lifelong sports fans, or should I say fanatics. Very few of us will ever be able to realistically play professional sports, but the dream and fantasy of playing at that level are always vivid and intriguing no matter the age.

It may be a small, niche community, but for NHL fans of Hawai’i there is a golden opportunity to play out your dreams of skating with some of hockey’s all-time greats at the Mario Lemieux Fantasy Hockey Camp. Proceeds from the camp go directly to the cancer research projects of the Mario Lemieux Foundation. Lemieux, one the greatest players the NHL has ever seen, is a Hall of Fame inductee, winner of two Stanley Cup championships and a three-time NHL MVP winner. In the midst of challenging Wayne Gretzky’s single-season goal total of 92 during the 1993 season, Lemieux was suddenly diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Through his treatment and cancer recovery Lemieux remained active in the Pittsburgh Penguin organization. He has held ownership and executive positions with the Penguins since 1997 and returned in 2000 as a player, before making his final retirement in 2006.

Synonymous with the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe or Maurice Richard, Lemieux is in the top 10 of many NHL statistical categories, including 7th all-time points leader and 9th all-time NHL goal scorer. The same year of his diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Lemieux helped create the Mario Lemieux Foundation.

For the third consecutive year Lemieux’s fantasy camp will be held in January/ February 2014 (specific dates pending) in the city of Pittsburgh, home of the Penguins. This five-day, all-inclusive NHL fantasy heaven gives anyone who attends a story of a lifetime. Some of the bragging rights participants will be able to share afterwards include playing and interacting with hockey greats like Theo Fleury, Paul Co˛ey, Mark Recchi, Bill Guerin, Bryan Trottier, Eddie Johnston, Rick Tocchet, Jay Caufield, Mario Lemieux and more. Very few have ever been in the company of hockey icons such as these, particularly on the ice.

Participants of the 64-player camp will be part of one of four teams. Each team consists of fellow camp participants and former NHL stars. Some the premier highlights of the camp include personalized, pro-stock Pittsburgh Penguins equipment and apparel, three games and two practice sessions at the famous CONSOL Energy Center-home of the Pittsburgh Penguins and two outdoor games at Penguin Pond in famous Station Square area of Pittsburgh. Upon arrival you will be ushered in for an introduction, equipment fitting and contract signing with Lemieux himself.

If chosen for the camp you will need to know how to skate and having prior hockey experience-even at the high school or club level-is preferred. As the camp progresses, games will be hosted in a round-robin tournament style concluding on the final day with championship and consolation games. Each team will certainly be competitive as the former NHL players-who are divvied up among each fantasy team-have a combined 35 Stanley Cups, 57 All-Star Game appearances and over 5,300 goals between them.

Regardless of which team comes out on the top, the pinnacle of the camp has to be the interaction with these iconic NHL players. With lunches, evening functions, autograph sessions and as personal guests of the Penguins organization to a live regular-season game, participants have ample opportunity to ask questions and hear the behind-the-scenes tales from these legends of the NHL.

“Our campers love it. The interaction with our celebrity captains is unbelievable and truly what the campers really enjoy,” says Mario Lemieux Foundation marketing director Ben Herring.

In its first two years the Mario Lemieux Fantasy Hockey camp has raised a staggering $500,000 for the Mario Lemieux Foundation, which is dedicated to cancer research and patient care. Proceeds raised also benefit Austin’s Playroom Project, a program initiated by Lemieux’s wife Nathalie. Named after Mario and Nathalie’s son Austin, who was born prematurely and spent weeks in NICU units as a baby, Austin’s Playroom Project is focused on providing quality, comfortable care and surroundings for child hospital patients and their families. To date, more than 27 Austin’s Playrooms have been established in hospitals tending to child-care needs.

Mario Lemieux Foundation, which began in 1993, has made tremendous contributions to cancer research initiatives. In 1999, the Mario Lemieux Centers for Patient Care and Research established a $5 million gift to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. In 2002, a $1 million gift to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh was donated and in 2008, the Mario Lemieux Foundation Endowment for Pediatric Hematology/ Oncology Research at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh was granted a $1.6 million gift. Other fundraising projects hosted by the Mario Lemieux Foundation include an annual golf invitational (for both men and women), poker tournament, auto show exhibit, and Mario Mosaic photo collage.

A unique and special sports experience, the Mario Lemieux Fantasy Hockey camp is currently taking waiting list applicants.

For more information and to register as a waiting list applicant visit www.mariolemieux.org or call (412) 281-3466.