Mike Bossy interview: Talking 50-in-50, Canada Cup, hockey violence, and prostate cancer screening

Mike Bossy: 573 goals in 752 regular season games. That is what is called "a lot."

New York Islanders Hall of Famer Mike Bossy has four uncles who survived prostate cancer, so it's on his radar for good reason. Likewise, no surprise he was happy to join the Depend Campaign to End Prostate Cancer as one of their sports celebrity spokesmen. As part of that campaign, he is doing the interview rounds to promote awareness to a demographic that is right in that wheelhouse: Guys who can talk sports 24/7, but maybe put up the tough "let's not talk about it" wall when it comes to personal health. Mike Bossy is here to tell you: Talk about it, learn about it, do something.

You might have heard the WFAN interview this morning (where he had to fight through the hosts' typical hockey-wary tomfoolery) and there will be more interviews elsewhere, including at From the Rink. For my conversation with Bossy I naturally focused on Islanders history, the 1984 Canada Cup, and his current business role with the club. We also talked about the prostate cancer campaign of course, but you'll find a lot of great succinct information about that in Depend's Q&A and video with Bossy, where he shows you getting screened is as simple as going in for a blood test. If you're 50 or older, do yourself the favor.

On this site, I use the freedom of a blog to mix up my approach a bit. Sometimes I try to be objective analyst, sometimes juvenile reactionary, and sometimes I let myself be partisan fanboy. When it comes to Bossy -- probably my favorite Islander -- it's hard not to be Chris Farley. ("Remember that time you intercepted the Snepsts pass near the end of OT, and you went high glove on Brodeur, and you knew Vancouver was probably done even though it was just Game 1?" ...Uh, yeah. "That was awesome. So awesome.") [h/t to Arthur at Anaheim Calling for that particular Farley parallel.]

Anyway, discussion of my favorite topics with the legend, and his topic of the moment, is after the jump.

Reading Snepsts in the Corner Like a Book

First, why not? I didn't bring this up, but let's enjoy the video of just one of Bossy's 85 career playoff goals:

Lighthouse Hockey [in accordance with the lovely branding practice of naming a questioner after the publication or site rather than the person doing the actual questioning]: I'm a long-time Islanders fan, so it's hard to know where to begin, but an Oilers friend wanted to know about the 1984 Canada Cup: Was it strange playing with several Oilers after you guys had just battled the Oil for the Stanley Cup the two previous seasons?

Mike Bossy: At the beginning it may have been a little strange, since we'd beat each other for the Cup those two years -- one win, one loss. But it quickly became like anything else: Once you get skating together and the lines are set, you start to develop that chemistry and it's just like any other team.

LH: I'm sure beating Russia cures all ills, too? [Note: Bossy scored the OT winner to eliminate Russia in the semifinal. You see Bossy's familiar celebration at about 0:45 of this clip. Canada then handled Sweden easily in the final.]

Mike Bossy: That definitely helps. That was a big thrill for all of us, a great game. After that semifinal, the final [a best of three with Sweden] was actually kind of anticlimactic.

LH: My dad directed me toward the Islanders because he was a big fan of Al Arbour when he was a player and coach with the Blues. I'd be remiss if I didn't ask, do have any favorite Arbour story?

Mike Bossy: {laughs} Not really. Nothing in particular. But I got along with him really well, and he was simply a heck of a coach.

Editor's Note: This is when I realize I'm not going to get any new dirt on the old days, though most of the best Arbour stories have probably already been told 1,000 times. But for younger fans, it's good to remember that Arbour was hardly seen as the stereotypical dictator-coach; he was known for how much he sincerely cared about his players. Trottier called him "a father-figure."

LH: I see highlights from the '80s -- a time when I was first watching hockey -- and now I'm amazed at how much the game has changed today. Particularly the shooting demands. So I always wonder, for you as a sniper, do you ever look at today's game, and the goalies with their extra pads and better positioning and training, and imagine how you'd approach shooting on them if you were playing today?

Mike Bossy: No. I really don't. It's very hard to transport yourself into any era, whether in the future or the past. You just can't really visualize it. So I don't try to put myself in any other players' [from other eras] shoes. I don't give it much thought.

Bossy's 50-in-50 goal is at about the 0:38 mark of this video

LH: One more specific Islanders history question: Whenever I see your 50-in-50 highlight, I wonder what was going through your head against Quebec, as the final minutes ticked down and it looked like you might not hit the milestone.

Mike Bossy: I was a little discouraged and disappointed. We were around the end of the game and I hadn't done it, hadn't gotten the opportunity. My 49th goal was a little unexpected in that it came off a rebound, but I was hoping for a clear scoring chance to do it. So the 50th was a little unexpected, too, in that it came off a broken play after they failed to break out of their zone. But then the pass came over [from Trottier], and at that point I just needed to take the same shot that I was used to taking in that situation.

LH: That expression of, of sheer joy on you and your teammates' faces afterward ... that's why I love this game.

Mike Bossy: Oh, it's always fun to see a good celebration.

LH: Even last night with the Cup. As a fan I don't like either team, but there's something about seeing the Cup hoisted.

Mike Bossy: Definitely. Everyone does it in their own way, but it's always fun to see.

LH: So you're working with the Islanders Business Club, and hopefully building toward the next time the Islanders get to lift the Cup?

Mike Bossy: My title is VP of Corporate Partnerships, so the Business Club is one part of what I do, but I focus on developing corporate partnerships. So I'm not on the hockey ops side -- which is great, I have enough on my plate -- but hopefully I'll be around to celebrate when the team does it again!

LH: In terms of on the ice, are you excited about the direction of the team with the youth movement?

Mike Bossy: Definitely. Tavares had a pretty good year. Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey are coming on. I really like Rob Schremp. So I'm optimistic that next year can be a playoff year.

LH: Returning to your playing career one more time, I always really appreciated your stance and quotes about fighting. Do you think in today's game, fighting's presence has gotten "better," for lack of a better word?

Mike Bossy: I do think it's changed for the better, in terms of you don't see many teams with a guy just sitting at the end of the bench just waiting for a fight. That sort of thing has diminished. I know they are still keeping an eye on violence in terms of the headshots and high sticks and everything, so that's something they're improving on.

...This goes toward the Depend campaign, too. I've always been against violence. That was my stance during my playing career, but a lot of people were thinking it without saying it. And that is just like screening for prostate cancer: People think about it but don't talk about it. It's not something men like to talk about, but it's beatable and people should be aware of it. My goal is that people become more willing to talk about it and understand what they can do to prevent it or catch it early. I'm past age 50 now, so I'm at that point where I need to be getting screened. And other men like me need to know that. That's why we're doing this.

*  *  *

And that, friends, is how you bring a public awareness campaign interview full circle. Thanks to Mike Bossy for the memories, the 658 career regular season plus playoff goals, and for indulging my Farley-like nature. Check out the Depend campaign site for more from him.

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