Hockey star Mike Bossy dies at 65

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Mike Bossy, one of the most prolific goal-scorers in National Hockey League history, who led the New York Islanders to four consecutive Stanley Cup victories in the early 1980s, died April 14 in Montreal. He was 65.

The Islanders and TVA Sports, the French-language broadcaster in Canada where he worked as a hockey commentator, announced the death. Mr. Bossy announced in October that he was taking leave from his job at TVA Sports to be treated for lung cancer.

Mr. Bossy was a thin but speedy right winger during a relatively short 10-year career, all of it spent with the Islanders. His sneaky shot of him helped him net at least 50 goals in nine consecutive seasons — an NHL record — including five in which he scored more than 60 goals.

Islanders goalie Glenn Resch once said that Mr. Bossy “scores goals as naturally as you and I wake up in the morning and brush our teeth.”

Although Mr. Bossy led the NHL in goal-scoring only twice — superstar Wayne Gretzky played during the same years — no player scored more than his 573 goals during his decade in the league, from 1977 to 1987. His per-game average of 0.76 and his average of 57 goals a season are both No. 1 in the modern era of the NHL.

Yet he was not seen as a budding superstar in his youth, and the Montreal native was passed over by a dozen teams in the 1977 NHL draft.

“I was lazy on defense in the juniors,” Mr. Bossy told Sports Illustrated in 1977. “It hurt my pride to go only 15th in the draft, and I’ve been working on my checking.”

Before he joined the five-year-old New York Islanders franchise, Mr. Bossy received a handsome offer from the Quebec Nordiques of the World Hockey Association, a competing professional league. But Mr. Bossy negotiated a more lucrative contract with Islanders General Manager Bill Torrey.

“Mike turned to me and said, ‘What is a 50-goal scorer worth to you?’ Torrey recalled years later. “And I said, ‘Are you telling me you’re going to score 50?’ ”

Mr. Bossy scored 53 goals, then a record for a first-year player, and won the Calder Memorial Trophy in 1978 as rookie of the year.

Coach Al Arbor partnered Mr. Bossy with Bryan Trottier at center and Clark Gillies on the left wing, a line nicknamed the Trio Grande. They led the Islanders to five consecutive Stanley Cup finals between 1980 and 1984, winning the first four before Gretzky’s Edmonton Oilers started to dominate the league.

“The most satisfying Stanley Cup for me was the fourth one, when we beat Edmonton 4-0, because everyone thought that Edmonton was supposed to take away the Stanley Cup that year,” Mr. Bossy said in the 2003 documentary “Ultimate Gretzky. ” “And when we beat them 4-0, it was like, you know, ‘It’s not your time yet. … You’ve gotta learn to win before you can win.’ ”

Mr. Bossy won the 1982 Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP and was the only player to score back-to-back championship-clinching goals, which he did in 1982 against the Vancouver Canucks and in 1983 against the Oilers. He was also the only player to score four game-winning goals in one playoff series, which he did in the 1983 conference finals against the Boston Bruins.

In 1981, Mr. Bossy became the second player in NHL history after Maurice “Rocket” Richard, and the first in 36 years, to score 50 goals in 50 games. In the 50th game against the Nordiques (by then an NHL franchise), he needed two goals to hit the milestone, but after the second period, he still hadn’t scored.

He went scoreless for most of the third period, but with about four minutes remaining, he knocked in a rebound for goal No. 49. Shortly afterward, a broken play by the Nordiques led to his 50th goal.

“I said I was going to do it and I went out and did it, a little like Babe Ruth, who pointed to the bleachers and put the ball out there,” he told SportsChannel NY.

Unable to stop Mr. Bossy’s scoring binges, teams defended him with a rough, physical style of play. He responded not by fighting but by scoring more goals. The NHL rewarded him with three Lady Byng Trophies for demonstrating “the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct.”

“He was a marvelous, marvelous talent who took a lot of abuse,” NHL journalist Stan Fischler said in a 2000 Legends of Hockey profile of Mr. Bossy. “And to Mike Bossy’s credit, he would never fight.”

An eight-time all-star, Mr. Bossy is still the top scorer in Islanders history. The team retired his number 22 in 1992, a year after his Hockey Hall of Fame induction.

Mr. Bossy played most of his career with chronic knee problems, which started when he broke a kneecap while doing the long jump at school. Back pain forced him to retire at age 30.

“The most disappointing aspect of my back injury was the fact that I wasn’t able to score 50 goals that last year, because I wanted to do something that no one else had ever done before,” Mr. Bossy said in the Legends of Hockey documentary. That season, he scored a career-low 38 in 63 games.

Michael Bossy — his middle name was variously reported as Dean and Jean — was born in Montreal on Jan. 22, 1957, and was the fifth of six sons among 10 children. His father of him, a machinery designer at a paper pulp mill, used his skills of him to construct an ice rink in the family’s backyard.

Mr. Bossy started playing hockey at 3 and grew up worshiping Gordie Howe of the Detroit Red Wings, although his favorite team was his hometown Montreal Canadiens. In his first organized hockey game as a 5-year-old, he reportedly scored 23 goals. By 1974, Quebec media called him the “next Guy Lafleur,” in reference to the Canadiens star.

He quit high school in the 11th grade to play hockey, joining a junior league team in Quebec. When he was 14, Mr. Bossy met Lucie Creamer, who worked at the snack bar at a hockey rink managed by her father. Mr. Bossy, who spoke English at home, learned French so he could talk with her. They married on July 23, 1977, the same day he signed with the Islanders.

In addition to his wife, of Montreal, survivors include two daughters and two grandchildren.

After hockey, Mr. Bossy worked in public relations for a potato chip company and did radio and television commentary.

“I didn’t want to be ordinary,” Mr. Bossy said in an NHL-produced documentary in 2017, when the league named him one of its top 100 players of all time. “I didn’t want to go out and only play half the games because of my bad back. Not playing the way that I knew that I could … just discouraged me to the point where I said I’m not going to play anymore.”

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