It was at TVA Sports that the youngest generation of hockey fans met Mike Bossy. During this mandate, he also came full circle with an old enemy turned colleague, Michel Bergeron.
Posted at 9:22
Updated at 10:45 am
“I’ve always had respect for Mike. We had our difficult times together, the tiger remembers. At the juniors, when I was training at Trois-Rivières, we had a strong team. One of my players, Daniel Horne, broke his nose. Mike wasn’t happy, but it eventually passed. It was part of junior hockey folklore. »
We go back to junior hockey because that’s where Bossy started writing his legend. As ? By scoring 70 goals in each of his four seasons at the Laval National.
Despite his exploits, he has to wait until the 15the rank in the 1977 draft, especially as they find him too cautious in a harsh world.
The islanders obviously have no regrets about their choice. Bossy started his career on a high with 53 goals in his freshman season. His 9 seasons with 50 goals is an NHL record that he shares, as is his 5 seasons with 60 goals. In 1980-81, Bossy became the second player in history, after the immortal Maurice Richard, to score 50 goals in 50 games.
“His quick draw was above average,” describes John Tonelli, his longtime teammate. The puck stayed on his racquet for no more than a split second. His quick draw was so quick and efficient. The puck came and went immediately. »
“People often say that Bossy wouldn’t score as many goals with today’s goalkeepers. Okay, but back then shooters ate sticks on their hands, on their forearms, recalls Glenn “Chico” Resch, a former Islanders goaltender who then faced Bossy. You used to have to eat volleys to score goals. And yet Boss was skinny, he didn’t lift weights in the gym. It was just a gift he possessed. »
Against a current
In many ways, the issue of violence will always be present in Bossy’s career. A three-time Lady Byng Trophy (Most Gentlemanly Player) winner, he has always spoken out against violence in ice hockey.
“I was so disgusted with wherever I went to play,” he said The press in January 1981. But I have never changed my mind and when I have been able to contribute to the establishment of new regulations I am very happy. »
“He had knee pain, back pain,” recalls former linesman Ron Asselstine. At the end of his career he was a bit grumpy. His opponents were always above him, hitting him hard and Mike felt the referees weren’t giving enough penalties. »
His attitude back then was against the grain. After that, he played in the same league as the Philadelphia Flyers, who remained tough even after the era of the “Broad Street Bullies”. And it was the NHL in general that became increasingly violent beginning in the mid-1980s.
But in life in general, Bossy had no trouble swimming against the tide.
“Rocket Richard and Boss have a lot more similar personalities than you might think. They had very different styles on the ice. But two things in life guided them, they had two loves. First it was about scoring goals. The second: Rocket loved Lucille, and Boss loved Lucie, describes Chico Resch, Bossy’s former comrade-in-arms but also a history buff.
“The boss didn’t bow to peer pressure. He didn’t have to be part of the gang. Boss knew he was there for the hockey. Guys come in, fill the room, like Clark Gillies, like Denis Potvin. Boss and Rocket, I wouldn’t say they were introverts, but they had clear priorities. Boss, you couldn’t pressure her to date boys. After three hours in the arena, the boys were out. He just wanted to visit Lucie at home.
“Some people understand that they represent the league, they understand that they have a higher mission, that it’s bigger than them, than their team. Crosby is like that. Bobby Orr, Jean Béliveau were like that too. »
This description of a lonely bossy even made it onto the pages of the renowned magazine sports illustrated, in an interview that the big number 22 then regrets. “I come from a big family, so I’ve never felt the need to be in a gang. I’m fine with myself,” he told colleague Larry Brooks.
Another of his Islanders contemporaries, former publicist Jim Higgins, confirms this picture.
“He was generous with reporters, but as soon as his interviews were over he went home. Some guys liked to stay, talked. Mike was a coach’s dream. While the boys stayed to joke, Mike was at home. I was told that he worked for radio shows after his career. Even if he had the qualities, I would never have seen him become a media personality. »
Especially in the media he was able to reconnect with Michel Bergeron. The two were colleagues at TVA Sports. It was the perfect opportunity to bury the wars of the past. Bossy’s broken nose from a hard Draveurs and the Islanders’ elimination of the Nordiques in the 1982 Conference Finals.
“Mike has always been a pet. Even at junior level I had a dominant team and despite our schedule, he found a way to score goals. At Trois-Rivières I tried to get him but Laval wanted to keep him because that was the appeal. At Monday night’s game, he was the one selling tickets.
“Working with Mike has brought us ever closer. We had a lot of fun working together. »
Islanders in the city
The Islanders are going through a difficult time as 2022 begins. Mike Bossy is the second member of her dynasty that won the Stanley Cup four times in the early 1980s and is leaving us within months.
Clark Gillies, the tough big winger along the lines of Bossy and Bryan Trottier, died in January. We could add Denis Potvin’s brother, Jean Potvin, who died in March. Jean Potvin played more in the 1970s and briefly in the 1980s.
At the end of the line, we have a feeling that John Tonelli is holding back his sobs as he learns of Mike Bossy’s death. “We experienced it with Clark, and here we go again,” Tonelli replies. This is our era. We’re getting older and that’s what happens. Mike was a brother, a teammate. What a player, what a person, what a good player. »
Bossy’s death also occurs on the day the islanders visit Montreal to face off against the Canadian that evening, a coincidence that struck John Tonelli.
“The other day I was at a game with my son who plays Union College. We were seated and I got a call saying Clark was dead. I lower my head and see I’m in 8th place and next to me in 9th place [le chiffre de Gillies] is vacant. Like Clark was texting me. And that’s where it happens when the islanders are in Montreal. Above is a hardworking guy. »