Islanders legend Mike Bossy, whose scoring touch helped drive the franchise to four straight championships, died after a battle with terminal lung cancer. He was 65.
Bossy’s diagnosis became public last October, when he stepped away from his job as an NHL analyst for the French language network TVA Sports to deal with his health.
“The battle I am about to wage will not be easy,” Bossy wrote at the time in French, in an open letter. “Know that I will give 100 percent, nothing less, with the objective of meeting you again soon, after a very eventful hockey game. You will never be very far in my thoughts. On the contrary, you will occupy a privileged place and you will be one of my motivations to get better.”
Renaud Lavoie, a former colleague of Bossy’s at TVA, was the first to report the news of his passing.
Bossy played the entirety of his 10-year career on Long Island, earning a place as both a franchise great and one of the best goal scorers the sport has ever seen, before retiring with a chronic back injury. He finished his career with 573 goals, scoring over 50 in nine straight seasons, an all-time record. Famously, he scored 50 goals in 50 games during the 1980-81 season, matching Maurice “Rocket” Richard’s record.
Of his scoring, former teammate Chico Resch told Sports Illustrated in 1981 that Bossy “scores goals as naturally as you and I wake up in the morning and brush our teeth.”
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991, with a list of accolades that includes eight All-Star appearances, three Lady Byng Trophies, the 1981-82 Conn Smythe Trophy and the 1977-78 Calder Trophy.
“He was, needless to say, a slender hockey player,” former teammate Bob Nystrom told The Post in October. “That’s for sure.”
Bossy was also a loud opponent of fighting in hockey, saying he would never take part in a fight, despite playing in an era where it was accepted as a regular part of the game.
“The New York Islanders organization mourns the loss of Mike Bossy, an icon not only on Long Island but across the entire hockey world,” Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said. “His drive to be the best every time he stepped on the ice was second to none. Along with his teammates, he helped win four straight Stanley Cup championships, shaping the history of this franchise forever. On behalf of the entire organization, we send our deepest condolences to the entire Bossy family and all those who grieve this tragic loss.”
Michael Dean Bossy was born in 1957, the sixth of 10 children and the fifth of sixth sons to Dorothy and Borden Bossy. He grew up in Montreal with an English mother and Ukrainian father, meeting his wife, Lucie, at the snack bar of an arena where he played midget hockey when he was 14.
At 15, Bossy began playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for Laval National, and his 532 QMJHL points remain a record.
When he entered the NHL draft, Bossy’s aversion to fighting was mistaken for a lack of toughness, and he fell to 15th overall, nearly choosing the World Hockey Association instead of the Islanders over money.
“I didn’t think [Islanders general manager] Bill Torrey was offering me enough, and he reminded me that I was the 15th player drafted, not the first,” Bossy once told SI. “But I told him I deserved more because I was going to score goals for him. Bill asked me how many. ‘Fifty goals,’ I told him.”
Rarely has there been a more prescient self-evaluation.
“Whether in hockey or anything else — like learning French, like cooking on a barbecue, washing my car — I am a perfectionist,” Bossy told UPI in a 1986 profile. “At times it’s an obsession — I look at myself and I think I’m crazy. But it’s been with me all my life, that drive. I’m just never satisfied, that’s probably one of the things that drives me the most.”
His personality was often described as aloof. He was regarded during his playing career as a private person, and because he spent offseasons at home in Montreal, it was written that he spent less time on Long Island than his teammates. Still, Bossy was a beloved figure, with the Islanders raising his No. 22 to Nassau Coliseum’s rafters just five seasons after his abrupt 1987 retirement due to a back injury.
After hockey, Bossy worked as a radio comic on a French-language station, as a vice president for Titan, as a PR person and a broadcaster for the Quebec Nordiques, MSG Networks and most recently, TVA.
His death is another blow to the Islanders, who have now lost three members of the 1979-80 championship team that kicked off one of the sport’s greatest dynasties since January. Clark Gillies passed away on Jan. 21, Jean Potvin on March 15.
The trio of tragedies has rocked the organization to its core.
“He lives Islanders,” coach Barry Trotz said of Bossy upon his diagnosis. “And he’s obviously an Islanders legend. … I’m kind of in awe of him. I used to watch him all the time.”
Bossy is survived by his wife, Lucie, his two daughters, Josiane and Tanya, and two grandchildren.