Mike Bossy's lips
say he's happy, his eyes say he's confused. His team, the New York Islanders,
has just destroyed the Colorado Rockies 9-3, but Bossy—the NHL's incredible
scoring machine—didn't contribute a single goal or even a single assist.
Nothing. He hit the goalpost three times, missed the net by a fraction a couple
of other times and was stopped several times in spectacular fashion by Colorado
Goalies Hardy Astrom and Jari Kaarela. "I'm happy for the team even when
things go bad for me," Bossy is saying. But his eyes have it: nine goals
and none for me. How could this have happened?
question. Islander Goal-tender Glenn Resch says Bossy "scores goals as
naturally as you and I wake up in the morning and brush our teeth." Indeed,
in his 3½ seasons in the NHL, Bossy has scored like no other player in history.
The 23-year-old right wing has gotten 214 goals in 272 games for a .787 scoring
percentage since the Islanders made him their No. 1 pick—and the 15th
overall—in the 1977 amateur draft. Cy Denneny, who played for the Ottawa
Senators and Boston Bruins from 1917 through 1929, is No. 2 behind Bossy in the
record book; he scored 250 goals in 326 games, a .767 percentage. For you
comparison shoppers, Guy Lafleur ranks fourth at .594, Bobby Hull fifth at
.574, Phil Esposito, who retired last week after 17 NHL seasons, seventh at
.560 and Maurice Richard ninth at .556. Recently fired Winnipeg Coach Tom McVie
said that what he wanted for Christmas was "a Mike Bossy doll. Wind it up
and he scores 60 goals."
Bossy has 41
goals in 45 games this season, and has trained his stick on the single-season
record of 76 goals set by Esposito 10 years ago. (Los Angeles' Charlie Simmer,
who's scored 42 goals in 43 games, may well beat Bossy to Esposito's record.)
Esposito's record, says Bossy, an honest and forthright Quebecois, is—what
else—"there to be broken." But he also says, "I haven't broken a
record yet that will thrill me once I've retired from hockey. And I don't want
to sound cocky, but scoring 50 goals is no big thrill." Not for Bossy,
He burst into the
NHL in 1977-78 with 53 goals, still a rookie record, then had 69 in 1978-79 and
51 last season. "In terms of plain numbers, dropping from 69 goals to 51
meant that 1979-80 was a bad season," he says. Maybe for Bossy, but don't
tell that to Islander Coach Al Arbour. An NHL defenseman for 12 seasons, Arbour
scored the grand total of 12 goals in 626 games.
Bossy is a sinewy
man with an angular face and sunken eyes, and he is a no-frills trip on or off
the ice. He scores economically, beating goaltenders with what seems to be
almost casual disdain. He speaks softly, yet makes his points. He is one of the
most outspoken opponents of violence in hockey and has publicly stated that he
will never drop his gloves to fight. He's a devoted family man who has said he
will retire at the age of 30 if he feels that hockey takes too much away from
life with his wife, Lucie, and 16-month-old daughter, Josiane. And Bossy keeps
a low profile away from the rink, avoiding crowds and publicity.
just a straight guy who's among the best who ever lived at what he does,"
Noble men would
lie, cheat and plunder to gain the secret of Bossy's success, but he says there
is no secret to his goal-scoring; his is an innate ability, one he neither
dissects nor questions. "Scoring goals is just something I've always been
able to do," he says. "I've never tried to analyze what I do, why I
might make a certain play, how I shoot the puck. I've never studied tapes of
myself. The puck seems to go in easier for me than for other players, and I
might be luckier scoring goals than other players, but I don't know why. People
think it's amazing, but I've never thought of it that way."
It can't be
documented, but it is said that Bossy once scored 100 goals in a pee-wee game
when he was seven or eight years old. It is documented that he scored 308 goals
during his four seasons with the Laval Nationals of the Quebec Junior Hockey
League. Still, Bossy was overlooked in the draft by 12 teams before the
Islanders selected him. "I don't think there's ever been a player with the
outstanding statistics he had who wound up in such poor draft position,"
says Islander General Manager Bill Torrey. Laval, a Montreal suburb, had a poor
team throughout Bossy's career, and Bossy did little but play Score-O. As such,
he acquired a reputation as a lazy player who couldn't—or wouldn't—check, play
defense or take a hit. Worse, he was a total pacifist on the ice. The NHL's
Central Scouting bureau wrote Bossy off as not a first-round pick. The Montreal
Canadiens did more than that. They wrote Bossy off forever.
me about Bossy," says Scotty Bowman, the Canadiens' coach during Bossy's
junior career and now the Buffalo general manager. "The coaches rarely did
any scouting in Montreal, but a friend of mine, Roger Bolduc, owned a piece of
the Laval team and he kept calling me about this kid Bossy, telling me I had to
come see him play. Well, one night I went out to see him and he scored five
goals, back-checked, did everything. I went back and told our scouts. They told
me that Bossy must have known someone was there watching him.
assistant, Claude Ruel, went to see Bossy play, and that night Bossy got three
or four goals and played great. Claude rarely called me at home, but he phoned
me from the rink. 'I just saw the only player since Lafleur who made me stand
up in my seat,' he told me. So we went back to the scouts, and one of them
said, 'Go see him against Sherbrooke.' Sherbrooke was the most physical team in
the league; the scout was saying that Bossy couldn't play against a tough team.
Montreal never even considered drafting Bossy. The scouts must have thought a
little bit of knowledge on our part was worse than none." The Canadiens had
the 10th pick in the draft, but they ignored Bossy and selected another right
wing, Mark Napier; he has scored 43 goals in 170 games for Montreal.