Mike Bossy is a legend, his on-ice performances beyond superlatives, his impact far-reaching. (Like, really far-reaching: Even wrestler Chris Jericho learned a word or two, and we learned a dance move.)
Bossy was a slam dunk for the Hall of Fame, and a no doubter to be included among the NHL’s list of its 100 greatest players over its first 100 years.
He was among five Islanders greats celebrated in that NHL100 event Friday night, and the video they created to salute him gives a glimpse into why. And why, to be honest, he always kind of knew it.
The video picks up with Bossy’s well-known confidence — he came in as a big QMJHL scorer, but people doubted whether he could do it in the NHL — and the topic of negotiating his first contract with Islanders general manager, “The Architect” Bill Torrey.
This story has been told in various forms before, but it’s fun to hear the two principals tell it:
Bossy: “They weren’t offering me enough money, so my agent said, ‘why don’t you tell him you’re going to score 50 goals?’”
Torrey: “Mike turned to me and said, ‘What is a 50-goal scorer worth to you?’ And I said, ‘Are you telling me you’re going to score 50?’”
Bossy: “He sort of looked at me like, ‘Maybe you should make the team first and then we’ll see about 50 goals.”
Also in the video, teammates like Clark Gillies recall what a needed offensive boost Bossy’s addition was to their already stellar lineup, especially when Bossy and Bryan Trottier hit it off with on-ice chemistry right away.
Teammates Billy Smith, Trottier, Bobby Nystrom, Pat LaFontaine and Denis Potvin also chime in, as do opponents like Montreal Canadiens two-way center Bob Gainey, and longtime Rangers defenseman Ron Greschner, who had this exchange:
Q: How do you defend a guy like that?
A: Uh, you change. Get off the ice.
And of course, Potvin got a line in about Bossy’s hair. “He had the big afro hair, and he looked like a skinny kid. But he was well developed.”
Bossy made good on his promise to Torrey, by the way. He scored a then-record 53 goals in his rookie season. He followed that up by scoring 50 or more — for his first nine seasons, only falling short of that mark when his career-ending back injury limited him to 63 games and 38 goals at age 30 in 1986-87.