July 13, 2013
The New York Islanders dynasty in the early 1980's ranks among the greatest teams of all time. Mike Bossy, often playing on one of the most feared lines in hockey history along with Bryan Trottier and Clark Gillies, was a key component of the success enjoyed on Long Island.
Hindsight is 20/20, but it seems hard to believe the Islanders were able to snatch up "Boss" with the 15th overall pick in the 1977 NHL Entry Draft. How could 14 other teams over look a guy who average 77 goals a year in a brilliant 4 year junior career?! At the time the QMJHL was notorious for developing the small snipers who didn't know how to play defensively or physically, and despite their knack for scoring goals NHL teams feared taking a chance on a boom or bust situation.
The Islanders were happily surprised to snatch up Bossy at number 15, and he would quickly prove that he would be no bust. Bossy is considered by many to be the best pure sniper in the history of hockey - even better than a Brett Hull or Ilya Kovalchuk for modern fans. And Bossy worked very hard at becoming a well rounded player. He openly admitted to not playing any defense in his junior days, but he became a very reliable back checker with the Isles.
He carried his goal scoring ways right into the NHL, scoring a then-rookie record of an unheard of 53 goals and earning the Calder trophy as top rookie. Bossy, always a very confident person, even had predicted to team general manager Bill Torrey that he would score 50 goals in his first NHL season - something never before seen in the NHL.
He would go on to score 50 goals in every single season he played in, except his final campaign which was plagued with back problems. He also scored 50 goals in as many games during the 1981 season. It was only the second time a player had accomplished that milestone that Hall of Famer Maurice "Rocket" Richard made so famous in 1945.
Mike Bossy's brilliant career included: 573 goal along with 553 assists for 1,126 points; In playoff action, Bossy tallied 85 goals and 160 points in 129 games; At least 60 goals on five occasions, and seven 100 plus points seasons; Four Stanley Cup rings; he scored the series winning goal in both the 1982 and 1983 Stanley Cup finals making him the only player in NHL history to record Cup winning goals in consecutive seasons; the 1982 recipient of the Conn Smythe Trophy awarded to the playoffs' Most Valuable Player; awarded the Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemanly play three times; A first team All-Star five times and a second team All-Star three times; And his 573 goals also put him high on the NHL's all-time list.
Bossy was also a member of Team Canada in the 1981 and 1984 Canada Cup Tournaments. It was his overtime goal in the 1984 sudden death semi-final that eliminated the Soviets and sent Team Canada to the final and eventually to their second Canada Cup championship.
Bossy was and remains outspoken about violence in hockey. As one of the most gifted and talented players ever to grace the game, he was often the target of thugs. However Bossy took great pride in never stooping to retaliation. The three time Lady Byng Trophy winner who accumulated only 210 PIM in his career, Bossy was often criticized for not fighting back. Critics passed him off as not tough enough. Bossy's sweet revenge would however often come in the following 2 minutes after the cowardly attacks. Bossy - perhaps the greatest power play weapon in the game's history - would score on the man advantage, and that would only upset the other team even more. Of Bossy's 573 career goals, 181 were scored on the power play.
A chronic bad back forced Bossy to retire prematurely. Oddly enough, the back injuries that still haunt him to this day were caused by the constant abuse he had to take on the ice. In his final season he tallied 38 goals, the only season in which he did not record at least 50 goals. Bossy termed the "failure" to score 50 goals as his biggest disappointment. In actuality he probably shouldn't have played that year either, as his back was just that bad. Bossy's love of the game outweighed doctors advice. But by doing so Bossy forever silenced his critics. He played through immense pain and showed the hockey world just how tough he really was.
It is an absolute shame Mike Bossy had to call it quits so soon. He is perhaps the greatest goal scorer the game has ever seen. But he also took great pride in working on his all around game, and became a very dependable defensive player and underrated playmaker.