The news was not unexpected after Bossy, who was 65, announced he had been diagnosed with lung cancer in an open letter on the TVA Sports website in October. But it was another blow for the group which won four consecutive Stanley Cup championships from 1980, and which had already said a tearful goodbye this year to Clark Gillies, who died at the age of 67 after a battle with cancer on January 21, and Jean Potvin, who died of a long non-COVID illness at age 72 on March 15.
“They’re picking the best of the crop with the departure of ‘Clarkie’ and my brother, who was a major addition to our team when he returned in 1979-80,” former Islanders defenseman Denis Potvin said. “We knew it was coming, of course. ‘Boss’ has been sick for a while. But it doesn’t help when he really passes.”
Jean Potvin, a defender like his younger brother, played a key role in the first two of four consecutive Dynasty Islanders championships. Gillies and Bossy flanked center Bryan Trottier on the front line throughout that run, which ended in the 1984 Stanley Cup Final against the Edmonton Oilers after New York won a record the NHL’s 19 consecutive Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Bossy, Gillies, Trottier, Denis Potvin and goaltender Billy Smith went on to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame along with coach Al Arbor, who died in 2015, and general manager Bill Torrey, who died in 2018. But if he there was a player in the highest area of this hierarchy, it was Bossy.
“One person has to be at the top of that pyramid and that was ‘Boss,'” said former goaltender Glenn “Chico” Resch, who played eight seasons for the Islanders and was part of their first league championship team. Stanley Cup in 1979-80. “The rest of us had roles, even Bryan and Clark. But ‘Boss’ was born to score. ‘Boss’ had a God-given talent for scoring that we all knew you couldn’t acquire.”
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After falling to the Islanders with the 15th overall pick in the 1977 NHL Draft, Bossy scored at least 50 goals in each of his first nine NHL seasons, including 53 in 1977-78 when he won the trophy. Calder, elected league rookie. of the year.
Bossy scored 1,126 points (573 goals, 553 assists) in 752 NHL regular season games before a nagging back injury ended his career after 10 seasons; he retired in October 1988. Bossy is the only player in NHL history to score at least 50 goals in nine consecutive seasons and is tied with Wayne Gretzky for the most 60-goal seasons ( five). His average of 0.76 goals per game is the best among players who have played at least 150 games.
“Having a friend like Mike and sharing the humor that we did, the laughs and every day we laughed, it was just awesome to be in the locker room with him,” Trottier told NHL Network. “And then having the kind of chemistry we had on the ice, especially with the great Clark on the left side, it was just a very, very special moment.”
Part of Bossy’s success has come from his confidence. Potvin recalled the story of Torrey interviewing Bossy before the 1977 draft.
“Bill Torrey said, ‘We’re thinking of signing you. We need a goalscorer because we have some really good players: Trottier and ‘Clarkie’ and so on. Can you score goals?'” Potwine. “And ‘Boss’ said to Bill Torrey, ‘I’m going to score 50.’ And Bill tells that story like, ‘Yeah, okay.’ And he scores 53 points. So that says it all.”
Bossy also won the Lady Byng Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL player voted best for combining sportsmanship, gentlemanly conduct and ability, three times (1982-83, 1983-84, 1985-86 ), and the Conn Smythe Trophy voted as the most valuable. Playoff player in 1981-82, when he scored 27 points (17 goals, 10 assists) in 19 games.
“He was a good man and he was a hockey player through and through,” former Islanders forward Bob Bourne said. “He studied the game, he studied the other teams before it really became available. He played so much on instinct too, a very intelligent player. Of course he had a devastating shot. I think of the the way in which [Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston] Matthews is scoring right now and Mike had the same kind of heavy, fast shot. It was his key to success. Moreover, he came to play in every game. He didn’t take a night off.”
Bourne, another member of the four Stanley Cup teams, lamented that Bossy’s death shortly after those of Jean Potvin and Gillies, whom he called “my best friend in the world”, reminded him of his own mortality. But the 67-year-old also cherishes the memories they made together, which again come to the fore now.
Memories like Bossy scoring on his NHL debut against the Buffalo Sabers in 1977 and scoring 50 goals in the first 50 games of the 1980-81 season to match a feat only Maurice Richard had accomplished, in 1944-45 with the Montreal Canadiens.
“He had to score (two) in the last game against the Quebec Nordiques and he finished scoring with two minutes to go to get his 50th,” Bourne said. “I remember it was a great moment for him. He was so proud to score, so proud. … It was amazing what he did.”
Jiggs McDonald, the Islanders’ television play-by-play announcer for 15 seasons beginning in 1980, recalled how Gillies joked that if Trottier had been right-handed instead of left-handed, he would have received more from Trottier. good passes instead of Bossy, and “then it would be me scoring those goals, not him.”
“Then he would laugh and say, ‘Yeah sure,'” McDonald said.
McDonald laughed at that memory and a few others, but acknowledged that the first four months of the year had been difficult for anyone connected to these islanders. McDonald also mentioned the Jan. 19 death of former NHL forward Randy Boyd, whose two seasons with New York (1985-87) came after his Stanley Cup years.
“It’s a slap in the face. We’re all getting older,” McDonald said. “Especially today, I think of Al and Bill, if there is a paradise, and the reception they would have for Mike’s arrival. It just hurts.”