On January 24th, 1981 in a 7-4 Islanders win over the Quebec Nordiques, Mike Bossy scored his 50th goal of the season in his team’s 50th game, completing a feat only accomplished once before in NHL history when Maurice “The Rocket” Richard had pulled it off in 1945.
The game itself was a wild affair, tied at 4 in the third period and with Bossy having no shots through the first two. He was stuck for two games on 48 goals and Charlie Simmer of the Kings would score his 49th goal earlier that day to increase the pressure that much more.
Then a power play goal and a lucky break and - boom - dancing time.
Via the New York Times, Jan. 25, 1981
Suddenly, on a power play, with the Islanders swarming around Ron Grahame, the Quebec goalie, Bossy found the puck on his backhand side. He waited a split second and shot it through an opening in the goal mouth at 15:50. When the red light went on, the Coliseum crowd rose en masse and roared.
The 50th goal was set up when a Nordique pass struck John Tonelli's skate, and the puck bounced back to Bryan Trottier inside the Quebec blue line. Left unguarded for one of the few times, Bossy waved his arms and yelled for the puck. Trottier sent him a perfect pass, and Bossy let fly a bullet from the left face-off circle that whizzed through Grahame's legs and into the cage.
The time was 18:31, and the Coliseum became bedlam. Foresaking the automatic penalty for jumping over the boards, the rest of the Islander team skated out and mobbed Bossy. He was leaping up and down with his stick raised, being hugged by Trottier, Clark Gillies and the others. Even Glenn (Chico) Resch left the Islander goal, skated illegally across the red line and joined the celebration.
Like a lot of things the dynasty era Islanders accomplished, Bossy’s 50-in-50 just sorta gets taken for granted by fans today, even by those of us who, technically, were alive when they were getting done. The team’s history is chock full of amazing moments that always get rolled up into highlight packages and played before games or on TV when the occasion suits.
So it’s illuminating to go back and read articles from that time and find Mike Bossy, goal-scoring god and arguably the greatest Islander who ever lived, saying that he was scared to death of failing because his big mouth might have gotten him into some deep, deep trouble.
From The Times, a few days later:
''What hurt the most,'' Bossy said, ''was that I had brought all this on myself by telling everybody I wanted to beat the Rocket's record. I had announced my goal, and now it looked as if I wasn't going to get it. I had three games to get two goals, and I was about to fail.''
In only his fourth NHL season (Jesus Christ...), Bossy had already joined the All Time Greats. That is as astonishing an achievement as the 50-in-50.
After the game, Bossy received a telegram from Richard, congratulating him on matching the 36-year-old record. ''I know what he's going to say when I see him,'' Bossy said. ''He'll claim he still holds the record because I scored my 50th in the last minute and he scored his with two minutes to go.''
Needless to say, we’ll probably never see anything like a 50-in-50 happen again (let alone Wayne Gretzky’s even more ridiculous 50-in-39). But we’ll always have Bossy and his arms in the air Running Man dance from 1981.