On a team known for his blue-collar grit, Mike Bossy was the sleek, finely crafted scorer as pure as hockey produced him, with a prime that lined up perfectly with the years of the dynasty. Islanders.
He was just one of many essentials that led to four Stanley Cups in four seasons in the early 1980s. But Bossy’s contributions were unique.
So when the Islanders announced Friday morning that he had died at age 65, after announcing in October that he had lung cancer, the news hit the Islanders community hard – and the hockey world beyond. .
“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 drive to be the best every time he stepped on the ice was second to none. Along with his teammates, he helped win four consecutive Stanley Cup championships, forever shaping the history of this franchise. On behalf of the entire organization, we send our deepest condolences to the entire Bossy family and to all who mourn this tragic loss.”
Widely considered among the top three Islanders of all time along with defenseman Denis Potvin and center Bryan Trottier, Bossy spent his entire 10-year career with the team before retiring due to chronic back problems.
If he had played in his mid to late thirties, it might have been him, and not Wayne Gretzky, whom Alex Ovechkin chased for the NHL career goalscoring record.
Gretzky finished with 894 regular season goals, far ahead of Bossy’s 573. But Bossy’s 0.762 goals per game ranks first in NHL history, well ahead of Gretzky’s 0.601.
He was that kind of talent, a sniper who did his job relatively quietly, thanks to the efficiency of his shooting and his overall game.
His finest regular-season moment came on January 24, 1981, when he joined Maurice Richard as the second player to score 50 goals in 50 games – it took two in the final five minutes against the Nordiques to reach the milestone. .
Bryan Trottier assisted the No. 50, who came on with 1:29 to go. That was fitting, given Bossy and Trottier’s long frontline partnership, often with Clark Gillies as left wing. (Gillies died Jan. 21, 2022, the first of the Islanders’ 17 four-time Cup-winning players to die.)
In a 2017 essay in The Players’ Tribune – written as a 14-year-old letter to himself – 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 ½ bedroom apartment. He slept on a cot at the end of a hallway, according to The Players’ Tribune essay.
In it, he recalls moving to Laval, Quebec, when he was 14, a move that came with a new home for his family and his first real bedroom, but also struggles with opponents looking to shake the top scorer. .
Bossy has always hated being seen as an effortless goalscorer, as if he doesn’t work hard at it.
The tough stuff left Bossy with a permanently misshapen nose, but that never changed his distaste for fighting, something he avoided in the NHL as his teammates sought to protect him from trouble.
One of the perks of living in Laval was meeting the girl who worked behind the snack bar at the rink, Lucie Creamer, who would later become his wife.
In 2021, his 309 goals (in 263 games) was still the all-time record in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
In 1977, Bossy became a first-round pick, but 12 teams waived him — the Rangers and Maple Leafs twice each — in part because of his reputation for finesse rather than toughness and defense.
After Islanders general manager Bill Torrey took him 15th overall, Bossy quickly linked up with Trottier as a center, and they scored 53 and 46 goals respectively in the Calder Trophy rookie season. Bossy.
Bossy scored a career-high 69 goals in 1978-79, but it was the following season that he and his teammates finally celebrated the sport’s biggest prize.
Bossy considered it a crucial personal moment in Game 1 of the 1980 Cup Final when he crushed Flyers tough Mel Bridgman. It was his way of making a statement that he would not be bullied.
In the Islanders’ four playoff series during their Cup winning streak, Bossy has scored 61 goals in 72 games.
He won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1982 – when the Islanders won their third Cup – after scoring seven goals in the Finals, a four-game sweep over the Canucks.
In 1983, Bossy scored nine goals in six games against the Bruins in the Conference Finals.
In 1986-87, with one year left on his contract, his back problems became untenable. He blamed them in part for overcompensating for a right knee injury he suffered in a long jump when he was 12.
In an interview for “Hockey Night in Canada” in February 1987, Bossy said he had missed practice time and was feeling the effects. “It really took away a lot of my timing and a lot of my conditioning as well,” he said.
He scored 38 career goals in 63 games in the 1986-87 season and retired after being out for the entire 1987-88 season, having played his last game aged 30.
Bossy finished with 573 goals and 553 assists in 752 career regular season games. He totaled 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 number 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: Suitcase?
Then Potvin added, “Thank you, Al!”
Newsday’s Joe Gergen took the opportunity to recall the impact Bossy’s arrival had on what was already a good team, writing: “For the Islanders he was the final piece of the puzzle, a diamond in a frame. in solid gold. With him in the lineup, the team became not just 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 goalscorers such as Ovechkin.
“You can’t compare Maurice Richard and Mike Bossy and Alex Ovechkin and Connor McDavid,” he said. “You just can’t compare these guys. Why don’t we say we’ll put players in their own categories? »
In 2020, NHL.com named Bossy the second-best right winger of the expansion era, behind only Jaromir Jagr and one spot ahead of Guy Lafleur, the Canadian tall who Bossy was often compared to.
Bossy held various business and media jobs after his retirement, including as a radio personality on a French-language station in Montreal.
In 2006, the Islanders hired him for their front office as Executive Director of Corporate Relations, responsible for assisting with sponsor 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 a leave from TVA due to treatment for lung cancer.
Bossy wrote in French, translated by Google: “Today, it is with great pain that I have to withdraw from your screens for an obligatory 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 ardor that you have seen me display on the ice and in my game.”
In his Players’ Tribune essay, Bossy wrote that he regretted how little he remembered of the Cup run, describing it as a crushing blur.
“What I remember is Bryan with the cut,” he wrote. “I have a vivid memory of him becoming completely ape- [expletive] run around the ice with the Cup above his head at the Nassau Coliseum. I can see him standing on the bench with it, pushing 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 cherish your time more, because your time will be shorter than you think.