Mike Bossy, the Hockey Hall of Fame wing who played a key role in propelling the Latest York Islanders to 4 consecutive Stanley Cup championships within the early Eighties, died on Friday at his home in Montreal. He was 65.
Kimber Auerbach, director of communications for the Islanders, said the cause was lung cancer. Bossy announced he had the disease in October.
The Islanders, founded as a National Hockey League expansion team in 1972, won only 12 games of their first season on the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island and weren’t a lot better the next season.
But they began reaching the playoffs under General Manager Bill Torrey and Coach Al Arbour, who assembled teams that featured Bossy at right wing and his linemates Bryan Trottier at center, Clark Gillies at left wing, Denis Potvin on defense and Billy Smith in goal. (Gillies died of cancer on Jan. 21 at 67.)
The Islanders defeated the Philadelphia Flyers, the Minnesota North Stars, the Vancouver Canucks and the Edmonton Oilers of their Stanley Cup championship run from 1980 to 1983, then lost to the Oilers within the 1984 cup final.
The Canadian-born Bossy was among the many N.H.L.’s fastest skaters, and he possessed an uncanny ability to get off wrist shots before opposing goalies had any notion that the puck was coming their way.
“Mike’s got the fastest hands I’ve ever seen,” Arbour, a former defenseman who had played alongside Gordie Howe with the Detroit Red Wings and Bobby Hull with the Chicago Black Hawks, once said.
Bossy twice led the N.H.L. in goals, with 69 within the 1978-79 season and 68 in 1980-81. He scored not less than 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 essentially the most in N.H.L. history on the time.
Bossy scored 573 goals and had 553 assists in 752 regular-season games over 10 N.H.L. seasons, all with the Islanders.
He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991.
A finesse player and barely built, Bossy eluded hard checks and refused to get into melees.
“Guys knew he wouldn’t fight,” Trottier told Sports Illustrated in 1999. “They’d punch him, spear him, it didn’t matter. He didn’t need much room. The guy was so creative, he could make something special with only a half inch.”
“I probably developed what scouts called my quick hands and quick release more out of self-defense than the rest,” Bossy recalled in his memoir, “Boss: The Mike Bossy Story” (1988, with Barry Meisel). “The N.H.L. was zoom, zoom, zoom in comparison with junior. I learned to make quick passes and take quick shots to avoid getting hammered each time I had the puck.”
Bossy won the Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemanly play in 1983, 1984 and 1986. He incurred only 210 penalty minutes.
He was chosen by the Islanders because the No. 15 pick within the 1977 N.H.L. amateur draft after being omitted by teams who, despite his remarkable goal-scoring in junior hockey, believed he didn’t have the checking skills to survive within the N.H.L.
It didn’t take long for Bossy to prove otherwise. He won the Calder Memorial Trophy for 1977-78 because the N.H.L.’s rookie of the yr, scoring a rookie-record 53 goals that stood for 15 years. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy because the most dear player within the 1982 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Michael Bossy was born on Jan. 22, 1957, in Montreal, certainly 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’s apartment constructing during winters to create an ice rink, and Mike learned to skate at 3.
He dropped out of Laval Catholic High School to affix the Laval National team of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League near the tip of its 1972-73 season and played in 4 full seasons for Laval, scoring 309 goals.
Then got here his selection by the Islanders within the draft.
Bossy’s N.H.L. profession was cut short by a chronic injury. At the start of the Islanders’ 1986 training camp, he experienced back pains. He missed 17 games in the course of the regular season and injured his left knee within the playoffs, when the Flyers eliminated the Islanders in a preliminary round. Doctors eventually found that he had two injured discs that couldn’t be repaired by surgery. He sat out the 1987-1988 season, then retired from hockey in October 1988.
The Islanders retired Bossy’s No. 22 in March 1992, making him their second player accorded the distinction, after Potvin.
Bossy’s survivors include his wife, Lucie Creamer Bossy, and their daughters Josiane and Tanya.
Bossy, who was bilingual, pursued business ventures and broadcasting work in Canada after his playing profession ended. When he was found to have cancer, he took a leave from his post as a hockey analyst for the Montreal-based French-language channel TVA Sports.
For all that Bossy and his Stanley Cup champion Islanders completed, they lacked the charisma of his contemporary, the Oilers’ Hall of Fame center Wayne Gretzky and Gretzky’s Edmonton teams that won 4 Stanley Cups within the Eighties.
“We never got one millionth of the popularity we must always,” Bossy once told Sports Illustrated. “We had a really low-key organization. They didn’t want guys doing an excessive amount of because they thought the hockey might suffer. People don’t speak about us in the primary mention of great teams.”
He added: “I assume as I become old I get bored with telling people I scored greater than 50 nine consecutive years. Every part I’m saying makes it sound like I’m bitter, but I’m not in any way. It’s just that once you do something well, like our team did, you’d prefer to get recognized for it.”
As for comparisons with Gretzky, Bossy told The Latest York Times in January 1986, when he became the eleventh player in N.H.L. history to attain 500 goals: “People call him the Great Gretzky. I can’t compete with that. I do feel comfortable with what I’ve helped my team achieve. Whether I feel of Wayne Gretzky as the best thing since apple pie is one other query.”
Maia Coleman contributed reporting.