Champion Islander Teams Hall of Famer Mike Bossy Dies at 65

Mike Bossy, the Hockey Hall of Fame wing who played a key role in guiding the New York Islanders to four consecutive Stanley Cup championships in the early 1980s, has died. He was 65.

The islanders announced his death but gave no further details. Bossy announced in October that he had lung cancer.

The Islanders, formed in 1972 as an expansion team of the National Hockey League, won just 12 games in their first season at Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum and didn’t fare much better the following season.

But they started to make the playoffs under General Manager Bill Torrey and Coach Al Arbor, the teams with Bossy on the right wing and his linesmates Bryan Trottier in the middle, Clark Gillies on the left wing, Denis Potvin in defense and Billy Smith put together in the gate. (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 and then lost to the Oilers in the 1984 Cup finals.

The Canadian-born Bossy was one of the fastest skaters in the NHL, and he possessed an uncanny ability to block shots off the wrist before opposing goalies even knew the puck was coming their way.

“Mike has the fastest hands I’ve ever seen,” said Arbor, a former defenseman who played alongside Gordie Howe with the Detroit Red Wings and Bobby Hull with the Chicago Black Hawks.

Bossy twice led the NHL in goals, with 69 in the 1978-79 season and 68 in 1980-81. He scored at least 51 goals in each of his first nine seasons before a back injury limited him to 38 goals in his senior season. His 85 goals in 129 playoff games was the most in NHL history at the time.

Bossy had 573 goals and 553 assists in 752 regular-season games in 10 NHL seasons, all with the Islanders.

In 1991 he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Bossy was a subtle and lightly built player who evaded harsh controls and refused to engage in hand-to-hand combat.

“The guys knew he wasn’t going to fight,” Trottier told Sports Illustrated in 1999. “They would hit him, impale him, it didn’t matter. He didn’t need much space. The guy was so creative that he could make something special with just half an inch.”

“I probably developed what scouts call my quick hands and quick dismissal more for self-defense than anything else,” Bossy recalls in his memoir Boss: The Mike Bossy Story (1988, with Barry Meisel).. “The NHL was zoom, zoom, zoom compared to junior. I learned to make quick passes and take quick shots to not get hammered every time I had the puck.

Bossy won the Lady Byng Trophy for gentleman games in 1983, 1984 and 1986. He only received 210 penalty minutes.

He was drafted No. 15 by the Islanders in the 1977 NHL amateur draft after he was passed over by teams who, despite his notable goals in junior hockey, believed he did not have the testing skills to survive in the NHL

It didn’t take long for Bossy to prove them wrong. He won the Calder Memorial Trophy for NHL Rookie of the Year in 1977-78 and scored 53 goals, a rookie record that stood for 15 years. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy for 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 descent and his mother was English. Borden Bossy flooded the backyard of the family home in the winter to build an ice rink and Mike learned to skate when he was 3.

He dropped out of Laval Catholic High School to join the Laval national team of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League near the end of the 1972–73 season and played in four full seasons for Laval, scoring 309 goals.

Then came his pick by the islanders in the draft.

Bossy’s NHL career was cut short by a chronic injury. By the time the Islanders started training camp in 1986, he had back pain. He missed 17 games during the regular season and injured his left knee in the playoffs when the Flyers eliminated the Islanders in a preliminary round. Doctors eventually determined that he had two injured discs that surgery could not repair. He sat out the 1987-1988 season and then retired from hockey in October 1988.

The Islanders finished Bossy’s No. 22 in March 1992, making him their second player after Potvin to receive the honor.

Bossy married Lucie Creamer and had two daughters with her. Complete information about his survivors was not immediately available.

Bossy, who was bilingual, pursued business ventures and broadcasting work in Canada after his playing career ended. When he was diagnosed with cancer, he resigned from his position as a hockey analyst for Montreal-based French-language broadcaster TVA Sports.

For all that Bossy and his Stanley Cup champion Islanders achieved, they lacked the charisma of his contemporary Oilers Hall of Fame center Wayne Gretzky and Gretzky’s Edmonton teams, which won four Stanley Cups in the 1980s.

“We never got a millionth of the credit we were meant to deserve,” Bossy once told Sports Illustrated. “We had a very reserved organization. They didn’t want the boys to do too much because they thought hockey would suffer as a result. People don’t talk about us at the first mention of great teams.”

He added: “I think as I get older I’ll get tired of telling people I’ve scored 50+ for nine straight years. Everything I say sounds like I’m bitter, but I’m not at all. When you do something well, like our team did, you just want to be recognized for it.”

Comparing Gretzky to the New York Times in January 1986, when Bossy became the eleventh player in NHL history to score 500 goals, Bossy said: “People call him the great Gretzky. I can’t keep up with that. I’m comfortable with what I’ve helped my team. Whether I think Wayne Gretzky is the greatest thing since apple pie is another question.” Champion Islander Teams Hall of Famer Mike Bossy Dies at 65

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