Part Two of our look at Mike Bossy’s sensational rookie season begins at a low point, a fight-filled game in Detroit that Bossy later said embarrassed him. He thought he had put all of his old junior fears to rest once he joined the NHL and a line with Bryan Trottier and Clark Gillies. But a stumble at The Olympia was a wake up call.
Over the next several months, Bossy resumed his scoring pace and eventually matched - then obliterated - Rick Martin’s record for goals in a season scored by a rookie. The Islanders won their division for the first time and looked to be a serious contender heading into the playoffs. But Roger Nielsen, Tiger Williams and the rest of the Toronto Maple Leafs had other ideas...
The decision to make this a two-part episode was a late one, but I think it makes sense. There’s so much to unpack from Bossy’s first season in the NHL, even almost 50 years later, that doing it in one episode would have meant either cutting content, or making the narrative too dense to fully comprehend.
This way, we can sit back and really marvel at his immediate impact on the Islanders and on Long Island. It’s not every day that a 21-year old player can be thought of as “legendary.” Mike Bossy wasn’t an ordinary player.
Mike Bossy’s autobiography Boss: The Mike Bossy Story, co-written by Barry Meisel, was used extensively, with excerpts read by Michael Paul Smith. Listen to Michael’s podcast “Ted and Michael Read Sketches into Microphones” wherever you find your podcasts, or directly from their website at TedandMichael.com. And follow Michael on Twitter and Instagram @mpsmithnyc.
Here are some extra pictures and stories from the time:
Research and other assistance was provided by Kevin Schultz. Visit VintageIceHockey.com, where you can buy t-shirts, hoodies and mugs featuring the logos over over 100 classic hockey teams from all across North America, as well as our own Al Arbour tribute shirt. Use the code ANXIETY20 to get 20 percent off an order of two items. Our portion of the sales go directly to the Center for Dementia Research.
This episode of Islanders Award Winners was written using archival material from Newsday, The New York Times and Sports Illustrated, and the books New York Islanders: Countdown to A Dynasty by Barry Wilner, Pride and Passion: 25 Years of the New York Islanders by Stan Fischler and Chris Botta and Dynasty: The Oral History of the New York Islanders 1972-1984 by Greg Prato.
The following video clips were also used in the podcast:
- A radio broadcast of a game from January, 1978 against the Flyers in which Bossy had a goal. And yes, that’s Yankees play-by-play man John Sterling on the call.
- Game 1 of the Islanders-Maple Leafs series with a very telling Roger Neilson interview.
- Bossy’s overtime winner in Game 2.
- Bossy was hurt in Game 6 on a hit from Jerry Butler. He came back to play in Game 7 but the immediate aftermath looked very bad.
- Lanny McDonald’s OT goal in Game 7 would haunt the Islanders for the next year-plus.
- Being eliminated was not ideal but at least Bossy got to sit on a panel with another all time f French Canadian great, Jean Beliveau.
- His rookie year was so spectacular that Bossy was interviewed at home by CBC, possibly the last Islander to do so.
On the next Islanders Award Winners: For much of the 1983 regular season, the Islanders didn’t play like three time defending champs. But their goaltending tandem led the way and were rewarded for it.