Thursday, March 6, 2014

Bossy Scores 50

On March 5, 1985, New York Islander Mike Bossy becomes the first NHL player to score 50 goals in eight straight seasons. He would finish his career with nine seasons of 50 plus goals, a record tied by only Wayne Gretzky.

Mike Bossy with the New York Islanders in 1985.

Bossy enjoyed a great career in the NHL with the New York Islanders. He played from 1977-1987 as a right wing.

Before playing in the NHL he started his junior career with Quebec Major Junior Hockey League at the age of 15. Despite scoring 309 goals in four seasons, Bossy was considered a timid player by NHL scouts.

In the 1977 NHL Amateur Draft, he was passed over by twelve teams, with the New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs ignoring him twice. However, the New York Islanders made him their first choice, 15th overall. General manager Bill Torrey was torn at first between taking Bossy and Dwight Foster. Bossy was known as a scorer who could not check, while Foster could check but was inferior offensively. Coach Al Arbour persuaded Torrey to pick Bossy, figuring it was easier to teach a scorer how to check. Bossy was placed on a line with Bryan Trottier and Clark Gillies, a combination that would come to be known as The Trio Grande, or the "LILCO line" (standing for "Long Island Lighting Company", since their prolific scoring kept the goal lamp lit).

Bossy boldly predicted that he would score 50 goals in his rookie season. He made good on his promise, scoring a then-record 53 goals as a rookie in the 1977–78 season, won the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year, and was named a Second Team All-Star.

Many thought it would be impossible to duplicate Maurice Richard's 50 in 50, set thirty-six years earlier. Then, in the 1980–81 season, Bossy became only the second player to score 50 goals in 50 games. The hockey press hyped this as he was in an unofficial competition with Charlie Simmer of the Los Angeles Kings to see who could first accomplish the 50 in 50 milestone since Richard. Both players were involved in their 50th game, with Simmer at 46 and Bossy at 48, with Simmer getting a hat trick to bring his total to 49 goals in 50. Making it particularly dramatic, Bossy was scoreless for much of the game but found the net twice within the last five minutes of his 50th game. Richard was on hand to congratulate Bossy for this achievement. Bossy finished the season with 68 goals in 79 games.

Bossy was known for being able to score goals in remarkable fashion, the most incredible, perhaps, in the 1982 Stanley Cup Finals against the Vancouver Canucks when, up-ended by a check from Tiger Williams and flying several feet in the air, parallel to the ice, Bossy nonetheless managed to hook the puck with his stick and score. Bossy was also noted for his clean play, never resorting to fighting (and being one of the first players to speak out against violence on the ice), and winning the Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemanly play three times: 1983, 1984, and 1986.

In 1982, Bossy set a scoring record for right-wingers with 147 points while also winning the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy. However, far more attention was given to Gretzky who not only won the Hart Trophy and Art Ross Trophy, but also shattered scoring records with an unheard of 212 points and 92 goals. Bossy aspired to be the best player of his era but fell short, as the Hart and Art Ross Trophies were two of the awards that eluded Bossy during his career, going to Lafleur, Trottier, and Gretzky. Although the Islanders swept the Oilers in the 1983 final to win a fourth consecutive championship, Gretzky and his Oilers still received the most attention.

The Islanders made a fifth straight Stanley Cup final in 1984 (The "Drive for Five") but the Oilers who defeated them 4–1, outmatched them. Bossy, who had scored 8 goals after the first three rounds of the playoffs (and 17 goals in the past three consecutive post-seasons), was silenced completely in the finals series.

Afterwards, the Islanders slowly declined, while injuries took their toll on Bossy's back. He was limited to 63 games in the 1986–87 season but still managed to score 38 goals. He decided to take the next season off to rest his back, but officially retired after the 1987-88 season. During his season off, Bill Torrey had offered Bossy to be traded to the Montreal Canadiens, so he could be closer to home, but Bossy declined. Having played his last game at the young age of 30, he scored 573 goals and 553 assists in 752 NHL games, all with the Islanders.

Bossy would go on to set several NHL records including the one above; he would also set the most 60 plus goal seasons with five, again only tied by Gretzky. He would set the highest goals-per-game-average with .762 goals per game. The most power-play goals in one playoff season, nine, tied with Cam Neely. He would record the most consecutive hat trucks with three, tied with Joe Malone, who accomplished the feat twice.
The Islanders retired Bossy's no. 22 jersey on March 3, 1992, the second Islander afforded that honor after longtime teammate Denis Potvin.