The Islanders and TVA Sports, the French-language network in Canada where he worked as a hockey analyst, confirmed Bossy died Thursday night. A team spokesman said Bossy was in his native Montreal.
Bossy had revealed his diagnosis in October in a letter to TVA Sports.
“It is with a lot of sadness that I need to step away from your screens, for a necessary pause,” Bossy wrote in French. “I intend to fight with all the determination and fire you’ve seen me show on the ice.”
It’s the third loss from that Islanders era this year after fellow Hockey Hall of Famer Clark Gilles died in January and Jean Potvin died in March.
“The New York Islanders organization mourns the loss of Mike Bossy, an icon not only on Long Island but the entire hockey world,” Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said. ‘
“His drive to be the best every time he stepped on the ice was second to none. Along with his teammates, he helped win four straight Stanley Cup championships, shaping the history of this franchise forever.”
Bossy helped the Islanders win the Stanley Cup from 1980-83, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 1982. He scored the Cup-winning goal in 1982 and ’83.
Bossy was a first-round pick in 1977 and played his entire 10-year NHL career with New York. He won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, got the Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemanly conduct three times and led the league in goals twice.
Bossy scored 50 or more goals in each of his first nine seasons – the league’s longest streak. He and Wayne Gretzky are the only players in hockey history with nine 50-goal seasons.
Gretzky’s Oilers met Bossy’s Islanders in a pair Stanley Cup finals, with the Edmonton side ending the Long Island dynasty in 1984 after getting swept by the Isles a year earlier.
The two all-time greats were Team Canada teammates on two occasions during the 1981 and 1984 Canada Cup tournaments. Canada won the ’84 event, thanks to Bossy’s tournament-saving overtime goal against the Soviet Union in the semifinal game.
“It was an honour to play with you. You will be missed,” Gretzky said in a Twitter post.
The Islanders were in Bossy’s hometown of Montreal to face off against the Canadiens on Friday.
Canadiens interim head coach Martin St. Louis, who is from nearby Laval, said Bossy was very much involved with the Montreal hockey community.
“I was born in 1975 and grew up in Laval, so I had an idea of ??the impact Mike had as a player. Mike was not just amazing on the ice, but off it too,” St. Louis said. “He came to present the trophies to the young people at the end of each season. I have pictures with Mike when I was very young. He gave his time to come and encourage young people, it was something special.”
Bossy is one of only five players to score 50 goals in 50 games. He remains the all-time leader in goals a game in the regular season at 0.762, and only two players have recorded more hat tricks than Bossy’s 39.
He ranks third in points a game and seventh on the all-time scoring list. Those are all in the regular season when Bossy put up some of the best numbers in the history of the game. In the playoffs, Bossy was even more clutch. He is the only player with four game-winners in the same playoff series and scored three playoff overtime goals.
Led by Bossy, Gillies, Bryan Trottier and defenceman Denis Potvin, the Islanders succeeded Scotty Bowman’s 1970s Montreal Canadiens as the NHL’s next dynasty before Gretzky’s Edmonton Oilers took over the sport.
Bossy was an eight-time All-Star and finished with 573 goals and 553 assists for 1,126 points in 752 regular-season games. He was the fastest player to reach the 100-goal mark and currently ranks 22nd on the career goals list. In the playoffs, Bossy had 160 points in 129 games.
“Though containing him was the obsession of opposing coaches and checking him the focus of opposing players, Bossy’s brilliance was unstoppable and his production relentless throughout his entire career,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.
“Our deepest condolences go out to his wife, Lucie, their daughters, Josiane and Tanya, his former Islanders teammates and his countless fans on Long Island, the New York metropolitan area and throughout the hockey world. He thrilled fans like few others.”
Back and knee injuries ultimately ended his career in 1987. He was limited to 38 goals in 63 games and unable to return for an 11th season.
Bossy was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991 and in 2017 was named one of the NHL’s 100 greatest players.
“I once asked Mike Bossy why he scored so many goals. Answer: ‘I rarely missed the net.’ A true natural,” fellow Hockey Hall of Famer Hayley Wickenheiser, a four-time Olympic gold medallist for Canada, said in a Twitter post on Friday.
Before reaching the NHL, Bossy played five seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the Laval National. He had 602 points in 298 QMJHL games. Bossy also represented Canada at the Canada Cup in 1981 and 1984, long before NHL players began going to the Winter Olympics.
Off the ice, Bossy was a leader in the movement to reduce fighting in hockey. In 1979, he told the media that he was never going to fight on the ice.
He wrote about his anti-fighting stance in a 2017 article for The Players Tribune titled “Letter to My Younger Self.”
“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 labelled 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,” Bossy wrote.
In the same article, Bossy also told his 14-year-old self that in the future, hockey players would take better care of their health.
“Guys don’t smoke cigarettes and drink black coffee at intermission anymore. They drink smoothies and ‘stretch,’” he wrote.
— with files from The Canadian Press
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