Mike Bossy, Hall of Famer for Champion Islander teams, dies at 65
Mike Bossy, the Hockey Hall of Fame winger who played a key role in leading the New York Islanders to four consecutive Stanley Cup championships in the early 1980s, died Friday at his Montreal home. He was 65 years old.
Kimber Auerbach, communications director for the islanders, said lung cancer was the cause. Bossy announced he had the disease in October.
The Islanders, founded as a National Hockey League expansion team in 1972, only won 12 games in their first season at Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum and weren’t much better the following season.
But they began to reach the playoffs under the leadership of general manager Bill Torrey and manager Al Arbor, who assembled teams that included Bossy on the right wing and his linemates Bryan Trottier in the center, Clark Gillies on the left wing, Denis Potvin in defense and Billy Smith in goal. (Gillies died of cancer on January 21 at the age of 67.)
The Islanders defeated the Philadelphia Flyers, Minnesota North Stars, Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers in their Stanley Cup championship run from 1980 to 1983, then lost to the Oilers in the 1984 cup final.
Bossy, born in Canada, was among the fastest skaters in the NHL and possessed an extraordinary ability to get shots to the wrist before opposing goalkeepers had any idea the puck was on its way.
“Mike has the fastest hands I’ve ever seen,” once said Arbor, a former defender who had played alongside Gordie Howe with the Detroit Red Wings and Bobby Hull with the Chicago Black Hawks.
Bossy has twice led the NHL in goals, with 69 in the 1978-79 season and 68 in the 1980-81 season. He scored at least 51 goals in each of his first nine seasons before a back injury limited him to 38 goals in his last season. His 85 goals in 129 playoff games were the highest in NHL history at the time.
Bossy scored 573 goals and had 553 assists in 752 regular-season games in 10 NHL seasons, all with the Islanders.
He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991.
A fine and lightly built player, Bossy escaped hard controls and refused to enter the fray.
“The boys knew he wasn’t going to fight,” Trottier told Sports Illustrated in 1999. “They would punch him, pierce him, it didn’t matter. He didn’t need a lot of space. The boy was so creative, he could create something special with only half an inch. “
“I probably developed what the scouts called my quick hands and quick release more for self defense than anything else,” Bossy recalled in his memoir, “Boss: The Mike Bossy Story” (1988, with Barry Meisel). “The NHL was zoom, zoom, zoom compared to juniors. I learned to make quick passes and take quick shots to avoid getting hammered every time I had the puck. “
Bossy won the Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemen’s play in 1983, 1984 and 1986. He suffered only 210 minutes of penalty.
He was selected by the Islanders as the number 15 pick in the 1977 NHL amateur draft after being ignored by teams who, despite his notable junior hockey goals, believed he lacked the control skills to survive in the NHL.
It didn’t take long for Bossy to prove otherwise. He won the Calder Memorial Trophy for 1977-78 as NHL Rookie of the Year, scoring a rookie goal record of 53 that stood for 15 years. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the 1982 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Michael Bossy was born on January 22, 1957 in Montreal, one of 10 children of Borden and Dorothy Bossy. His father was of Ukrainian origin and his mother was English. Borden Bossy flooded the backyard of the family condo during the winters to create an ice rink, and Mike learned to skate at age 3.
He dropped out of Laval Catholic High School to join the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Laval national team towards the end of his 1972-73 season and played in four full seasons for Laval, scoring 309 goals.
Then came his selection by the islanders in the project.
Bossy’s career in the NHL was cut short by a chronic injury. At the beginning of the islanders’ training camp in 1986, he suffered from back pain. He missed 17 games during the regular season and injured his left knee in the playoffs when the Flyers knocked out the Islanders in a preliminary round. Doctors eventually discovered that he had two injured discs that could not be surgically repaired. He skipped the 1987-1988 season, then retired from hockey in October 1988.
The Islanders retired Bossy’s number 22 in March 1992, making him their second player to be granted the honor, after Potvin.
Bossy’s survivors include his wife, Lucie Creamer Bossy, and their daughters Josiane and Tanya.
Bossy, who was bilingual, took up business ventures and broadcasting jobs in Canada following the end of his playing career. When it was discovered that he had cancer, he took his leave of his position as a hockey analyst for the French-language channel TVA Sports based in Montreal.
Despite everything Bossy and his Stanley Cup Islanders champion accomplished, they lacked the charisma of his contemporary, the center of the Oilers Hall of Fame Wayne Gretzky and Gretzky’s Edmonton teams that won four Stanley Cups in the 1980s.
“We never got a millionth of the recognition we should have,” Bossy once told Sports Illustrated. “We had a very modest organization. They didn’t want the boys to do too much because they thought hockey could suffer. People don’t talk about us when they talk about great teams ”.
He added: “I think as I get older I get tired of telling people that I have scored more than 50 goals for nine consecutive years. Everything I’m saying makes it sound like I’m bitter, but I’m not at all. It’s just that when you do something good, like our team did, you want to be recognized for it.
Regarding confrontations with Gretzky, Bossy told the New York Times in January 1986, when he became the 11th player in NHL history to score 500 goals: “People call him the Great Gretzky. I can’t compete with that. I feel comfortable with what I have helped achieve my team. If I think of Wayne Gretzky as the coolest thing since apple pie is another question.
Maia Coleman contributed to the report.