Islanders remember late franchise legend Mike Bossy

A moment of silence in Bossy’s memory was observed before the Islanders topped Montreal in a shutout effort.

The New York Islanders announced the passing of franchise legend Mike Bossy on Friday at the age of 65. Bossy, one of the most renowned names in Islander history, had been battling lung cancer, previously diagnosed in October 2021.

“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 in a team statement. “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.”

Bossy remains the Islanders’ all-time leading goal scorer with 573 and also ranks third and second respectively in assists (553) and points (1,126). He trails only linemate Bryan Trottier in the franchise ranks for points after beginning his career as the Islanders’ top draft pick in the 1977 draft. Chosen in the 15th overall slot after making a name for himself in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Bossy’s services were twice denied by the New York Rangers prior to the Islanders’ selection.

Paired on the Islanders’ top line with Trottier and Clark Gillies (who passed away from cancer in January), Bossy immediately burst onto the scene with 53 goals during the 1977-78 season, setting a rookie record that stood until Winnipeg’s Teemu Selanne earned 76 in 1992-93. That kicked off a streak of nine consecutive seasons with 50-plus goals, his best output being 69 in his sophomore season. Though the nine seasons with at least 50 are tied for Wayne Gretzky for the most all-time, he’s the sole owner of the consecutive nature of the accomplishment. Bossy also shares the record for most 60-plus goal seasons with Gretzky (5) and also became the first player to match Maurice “Rocket” Richard’s legendary accomplishment of scoring 50 goals in 50 games, doing so in 1980-81.

Bossy then went on to play a vital role in the Islanders’ famed championship runs of the early-1980s, which saw him earn a majority of his franchise-record 85 playoff goals. His efforts brought the Stanley Cup to Long Island on four occasions and he also earned the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason’s MVP in the penultimate effort in 1982. Bossy scored seven goals in the four-game sweep of the Vancouver Canucks, tying a Stanley Cup Final record set by Jean Beliveau 26 years prior. Another rare SCF feat came in the following campaign when Bossy earned the series-winning goal for the second consecutive year (sweeping Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers), becoming the first to do so since Jack Darragh of the original Ottawa Senators (1920-21).

Back and knee injuries forced Bossy into an early retirement at the age of 30. In addition to the Conn Smythe, other individual awards included three Lady Byng Memorial Trophies for his gentlemanly play (charged with only 210 penalty minutes over his 10 seasons) and seven invitations to the NHL All-Star Game (winning the MVP Award in the 1982 edition in Washington D.C.). Bossy was elected to Toronto’s Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991, one year before the Islanders permanently his No. 22 (the second Islanders to receive such an honor after his teammate Dennis Potvin).

Bossy spent the remainder of his career in a variety of roles both in and out of the hockey realm, which included a brief stint as an analyst for MSG Networks’ coverage of the Islanders, who also brought him aboard to help in the sponsorship, fan development, and community relations departments. He is survived by his wife Lucie (to whom he’d been married since 1977) and his daughters Josiane and Tanya.

Tributes throughout the hockey world have poured in for Bossy. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman mentioned that Bossy “thrilled fans like few others” in a statement released on the league website. Current Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant declared that he idolized Bossy and his Islander teams while growing up in Prince Edward Island and later got to work with him while he served as an assistant in Union for two seasons.

Appropriately, the modern Islanders did battle in Bossy’s homeland of Montreal on Friday night, taking on the Canadiens at Bell Centre. With their jerseys bearing a memorial patch showcasing Bossy’s famous number (next to the similarly-styled No. 9 patch in Gillies’ memory), the Islanders earned a 3-0 win behind a 44-save shutout for Ilya Sorokin. A moment of silence was dedicated to Bossy prior to the opening faceoff.

“(He was) a great ambassador for the Islanders, but a greater ambassador for the game of hockey,” head coach Barry Trotz said during his pregame availability in video from SNY. “One of the great scorers in the league, one of the great people in the league, and he’ll be missed…He’s just everything everybody ever said about him exactly and more. Just a quality person.”

Forward Anthony Beauvillier acknowledged that 2022 has been a “hard year” for the Islanders organization, which also bid farewell to Jean Potvin, Dennis’ older brother and championship defenseman who passed away in March. Teammate Brock Nelson was appreciative of the efforts the Islanders have made to connect current players to their champions of the past, which afforded him an opportunity to meet Bossy and other team legends.

“Any time I ever ran into Mike, he was always so gracious, very nice to talk to,” Nelson, who had a goal and an assist in Montreal, said. “He was such a phenomenal player, he made goal-scoring look easy. So for the career he had and the person that he was, the time he gave back to the Islanders, it meant a lot to us young players, anyone in the organization to get to know someone like that, learn from them, even in those small conversations. It’s a sad day to lose Mike and our prayers are with him and his family, everyone that was close with him.

The Islanders will round out a three-game road trip on Sunday night in Toronto (7:30 p.m. ET, MSG+).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags