On a team known for its blue collars, Mike Bossy was the elegant, finely tailored deal-closer, so pure goal scorer that hockey has produced, with a prime that nicely matched the islanders’ dynasty year.
He was just one of many essential elements that led to four Stanley Cups in four seasons in the early 1980s. But Bossy’s contribution was unique.
So when the Islanders announced on Friday morning that he had died at the age of 65, after announcing in October that he had lung cancer, the news hit the Islanders community hard – and the wider hockey world outside.
“The New York Islanders organization mourns the loss of Mike Bossy, an icon not only on Long Island but throughout the hockey world,” Islanders President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello said in a statement. “His quest to be the best every time he stepped on the ice was unparalleled. Together with his teammates, he helped win four Stanley Cup championships in a row, shaping the history of this franchise forever. On behalf of Throughout the organization, we send our deepest condolences to the entire Bossy family and all those who are grieving over this tragic loss. ”
Considered widely among the top three islanders of all time along with defender Denis Potvin and center Bryan Trottier, Bossy spent his entire 10-year career with the team before retiring due to chronic back problems.
Had he played in the mid to late 30s, it might have been him, not Wayne Gretzky, who Alex Ovechkin has been chasing for the NHL career goal scoring record.
Gretzky finished with 894 goals in the regular season, well ahead of Bossys 573. But Bossys 0.762 goals per game. match ranks first in NHL history, well ahead of Gretzky’s 0.601.
He was the kind of talent, a sniper, who did his job relatively quietly, thanks to the efficiency of his shots and his overall play.
His finest moments of the regular season came on January 24, 1981, when he joined Maurice Richard as the second player to score 50 goals in 50 games – he needed two in the final five minutes against Nordiques to reach the milestone.
Bryan Trottier assisted at No. 50, which came back with 1:29 left. That was appropriate given the long front-line partnership between Bossy and Trottier, often with Clark Gillies as their left wing. (Gillies died on January 21, 2022, the first of the Islanders’ 17 four-time Cup-winning players to pass away.)
In a 2017 essay in The Players’ Tribune – written as a letter to his 14-year-old self – Bossy concluded with this: “Thank God I was an islander and I love you, Bryan Trottier.”
Bossy was born on January 22, 1957, the fifth of 10 children, and grew up in Montreal in a 4-bedroom apartment. He slept on a cot at the end of a hallway, according to the essay in The Players’ Tribune.
In it, he remembered moving to Laval, Quebec, as a 14-year-old, a move that came with a new home for his family and his first real bedroom, but also struggling with opponents trying to rattle that hot-shot -scorer. .
Bossy always hated being considered an effortless goal scorer, as if he was not working hard on the craft.
The harsh stuff left Bossy with a permanently deformed nose, but that never changed his aversion to fights, something he avoided in the NHL as teammates tried to protect him from trouble.
One benefit of life in Laval was meeting the girl who worked behind the snack bar on the ice rink, Lucie Creamer, who later became his wife.
As of 2021, his 309 goals (in 263 games) were still the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League record.
In 1977, Bossy considered becoming a first-round draft pick, but 12 teams went on with him – the Rangers and Maple Leafs twice each – in part because of his reputation for finesse over toughness and defense.
After Islanders general manager Bill Torrey took him to an overall 15th place, Bossy quickly attached himself to Trottier as his center, and they scored 53 and 46 goals, respectively, in Bossy’s Calder Trophy-winning rookie season.
Bossy scored a career-high 69 goals in 1978-79, but it was in the following season that he and his teammates finally celebrated the sport’s biggest award.
Bossy considered it a crucial personal moment in Game 1 of the 1980 Cup final as he ran over Flyers tough guy Mel Bridgman. It was his way of stating that he would not be bullied.
In the Islanders’ four playoff races during their cup winning streak, Bossy scored 61 goals in 72 games.
He won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1982 – when the Islanders won their third cup tournament – after scoring seven goals in the final, a four-game sweep of the Canucks.
In 1983, Bossy scored nine goals in six games against the Bruins in the final round of the conference.
In 1986-87, with one year left on his contract, his back problems were becoming unbearable. He blamed them in part for overcompensating for a right knee injury he sustained while jumping at length as a 12-year-old.
In an interview with “Hockey Night in Canada” in February 1987, Bossy said he had missed training time and felt the effects. “It has really made me lose a lot of my timing and a lot of my fitness too,” he said.
He scored a career-low 38 goals in a career-low 63 games in the 1986-87 season and retired after sitting out the entire 1987-88 season, after playing his last game at the age of 30.
Bossy finished with 573 goals and 553 assists in 752 career games in the regular season. He got a total of 210 penalty minutes in his 10 seasons and won the Lady Byng Trophy three times for gentlemanly play.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991 – in the same class as Potvin – and the Islanders retired his No. 22 in 1992.
On the night of his number retirement, Potvin imagined the conversation between Torrey and coach Al Arbor on draft day in 1977: “Shall we draft a guy who can check, or the thin 20-year-old from Laval who can’t check a suitcase?”
Then Potvin added, “Thank you, Al!”
Newsday’s Joe Gergen took the opportunity to recall the impact of Bossy’s arrival on what was already a good team, writing: “For the Islanders, he was the last piece of the puzzle, a diamond in a solid gold setting. With him in line the team became not only a threat but an attraction. ”
In a 2020 interview for Newsday’s “Island Ice” podcast, Bossy urged fans to avoid comparisons with him and other historic goal scorers such as Ovechkin.
“You can not compare Maurice Richard and Mike Bossy and Alex Ovechkin and Connor McDavid,” he said. “You just can not compare those guys. Why do not we say we place players in their own categories?”
In 2020, NHL.com named Bossy the second-best right-winger in the expansion era, just behind Jaromir Jagr and one spot ahead of Guy Lafleur, the great Canadiens with whom Bossy was often compared.
Bossy held a number of jobs in business and the media after retirement, including as a radio personality at a French-language station in Montreal.
In 2006, Islanders hired him to their front office as CEO of corporate relations, with the task of helping with sponsorship and fan development.
He worked for MSG Networks as an analyst in 2014-15, then joined TVA Sports, a French channel in Canada.
On October 16, 2021, he announced that he was taking leave from TVA due to treatment for lung cancer.
Bossy wrote in French, as translated by Google, “Today it is with great sadness that I have to retire from your screens for a mandatory break, a necessary stop during which I will have to receive treatment for lung cancer.
“I can assure you that I intend to fight with all the determination and all the zeal that you have seen me show on the ice and in my game.”
In his Players’ Tribune essay, Bossy wrote that he regretted how little he remembered about the Cup race, describing it as an overwhelming blur.
“What I remember is Bryan with the trophy,” he wrote. “I have a vivid memory that he was completely abe- [expletive] races around the ice with the Cup over his head at the Nassau Coliseum. I can see him standing on the bench with it and laying eggs on the crowd. I can see him jumping on Billy Smith after we won our fourth Cup in a row.
“My advice to you, kid, is to remember more. And to value your time more because your time is getting shorter than you think.”