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Mike Bossy Players Tribune letter is heartfelt, historic and occasionally hilarious

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Black coffee, cigarettes, cots, insults and 573 goals make for quite a career, according to the man himself.

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Islanders
Please don’t smoke, John.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

We’re lucky. No, seriously.

For all the grief the Islanders heap on us season after season, we have an almost bottomless treasure trove of incomparable moments and incredible players that few fanbases can boast. Sure it’s all history. But it’s our history and in many cases, it’s magical.

Exhibit A: Michael Dean Bossy, right wing, four-time Stanley Cup champion and one of the most electric goal scorers in NHL history. Today at The Players Tribune, the 60-year-old Bossy wrote a letter to his younger self similar to what linemate Bryan Trottier did back in 2015. And like that one, Bossy’s tale is required reading for all Islanders fans.

The article covers Bossy’s boyhood in Quebec as one of 10 kids and all the work he put into getting that supernatural shot, but it also includes reflections on being a skilled player in the rough-and-tumble 70’s and what he wishes he had done more of during the Islanders dynasty run.

I won’t spoil the whole thing by pasting it here, but some of the passages are very deep and display a side of Bossy most of us may not know.

So you’re going to make a decision that, at the time, is going to be extremely controversial. In 1979, you’re going to announce to the press that you’re never going to fight again. That’s it. You’re done with it. No matter what anyone does to you, you’re not going to fight. You think it’s pointless and insane.

Oh, boy. That’s going to be an interesting time.

You need to be prepared for the names you’re going to get called. You need to be prepared for how people are going to look at you for making a statement like that in 1979. For a guy who is already unfairly labeled as “timid,” this is going to be a big deal. Some people in the hockey world will simply not accept that someone who doesn’t fight can ever be a winner.

It also includes bon mots like this one:

Guys don’t smoke cigarettes and drink black coffee at intermission anymore. They drink smoothies and “stretch.”

And this hilarious recollection that I would give my right arm to have had video of:

The first two or three practices, you’ll keep skating up to Al during breaks and asking what you should be doing in your own zone.

“Coach, when the puck is behind the net, am I in the right spot?”

“Coach….”

Finally, he’ll shut you up.

“Mike?”

“Yes, coach.”

“Mike, do you know why we brought you here?”

“Well….”

“Mike, we brought you here to score goals. Can you score goals for us?”

“Well.…”

“Mike, don’t bother me about your defense ever again. If I have anything to say about your defense, I’ll come and see you, O.K.?”

You’ll speak to Al maybe two or three more times the rest of the season.

Bossy ends the letter by telling his younger self about the the injuries that will cut his career shorter than he would have liked and how the rush of lifting the Cup is a blur to him now.

My biggest piece of advice for you is to try to remember more of it. As sad as it is to say, as I write this to you at 60 years old, I can barely remember anything about lifting those Stanley Cups. I don’t know if it’s all the hits I took, or just because of how overwhelmed I was at the time, but I really cannot remember much.

What I do remember is Bryan with the Cup. I have a vivid memory of him going completely apes***, racing around the ice with the Cup above his head at Nassau Coliseum. I can see him standing on the bench with it, egging on the crowd. I can see him jumping on Billy Smith after we won our fourth Cup in a row.

The final line will resonate with anyone that’s ever put any time and effort into following this franchise, which exists the way it is because of Mike Bossy.

So stop right now and go read it.