If Bossy has an
innate ability to put the puck in the nets, his sense of direction is acquired.
"In junior I pretty much carried the puck all the time except for one year
when I played with a center named Jean Trottier," he says. "But when I
came to the Islanders, Bryan had the puck most of the time, or Clarkie was
digging for it in the corners, so I had to find a way to get into position to
take a pass if I wanted it. If I stand in one place, the other team will hook,
hold and clutch me, but by moving around the way I do, all they can do is whack
at me, and that won't stop me. It's hard work, it's tiring and it's bruising,
but I want to be in position where I can get the puck and shoot it."
And when he does,
the red light goes on. "Mike may not even realize it," says Esposito,
"but he's absolutely relentless in his pursuit of a goal." Sorry Phil,
but Bossy does realize it. "Scoring goals is the thing I love most about
hockey," he says. "When I score a goal, the feeling I get is something
I'd wish on people." Bossy's psyche almost demands that he score. That's
why his eyes can betray his lips on nights his team wins 9-3 but he comes up
think I'm not allowed to get angry in that kind of a situation, but that's a
bunch of baloney," Bossy says. "When I don't score, it's almost never
the goalie who stops me. I stop myself. So why shouldn't I be mad? That has
nothing to do with the team; it doesn't take away my feeling for a victory. But
maybe one of the reasons I do score so much is because I put so much pressure
on myself every game, and getting angry when I don't is just part of
At the same time,
Bossy becomes snappish if he's overlooked, or criticized because he hasn't
scored. "It's always been that if Mike Bossy didn't score, then he had a
bad game," he says. "That's not right." Bossy wants to be
recognized as an all-round player: for his excellent playmaking ability (last
Tuesday night he failed to score a goal in the Islanders' 6-3 win over Toronto
but nevertheless set a club record by assisting on all six goals) and his
improved checking and defense as well as his goal-scoring. It bothers him that
he has never been a first-team All-Star in the NHL, not even in 1978-79 when he
had those 69 goals; La-fleur has been the All-Star right wing the last six
seasons. Bossy believes he has the ability to dominate a game for shift after
shift after shift, like Lafleur, but is convinced that the Islanders' defensive
style restricts him. He also believes that too many people consider him to be
just a lucky stiff, that anyone could score 50 or 60 goals playing alongside
Trottier, with whom Artoo Detoo could probably score 25. Esposito played with
Bobby Orr for eight seasons and many of his goals came on passes from Orr or
deflections of Orr shots, and he heard the same criticisms as Bossy.
"People say Michael can only score goals, and that's not true,"
Esposito says. "But even if it were true, that's still what this game is
about. If he gets three and they get two, who wins?"
Resch offers a
different view. "So much of the criticism of Mike is only a reflection of
human nature, of jealousy," he says. "Here's this kid who comes into
the league and rips it up like it's peewees. How do you rationalize that? So
you get back at him with criticism. But now, anyone who doesn't respect Mike
has to have a chip on his shoulder."
have always been a clannish team—too clannish, in fact—and they didn't hustle
out the welcome wagon for Bossy in 1977. The rookie showed up with his big
goal-scoring numbers and was both sensitive and outspoken; he was, in fact, the
perfect target for a needle. And when Arbour immediately placed Bossy on the
team's glamour line with Trottier and Gillies, a number of Islanders—not
including Billy Harris, the right wing Bossy replaced—couldn't mask their
jealousy. Beyond that, Bossy made it clear that he preferred his own company to
that of most of his teammates. "They were wary of me and I was wary of
them," he says.
Mike is the sixth
of Dorothy and Borden Bossy's 10 children, the fifth of six sons; his four
older brothers are his senior by four to nine years. "With the age
difference, my brothers were always big brothers, not playmates," Mike
says. "Coming from a large family, I've never needed a group scene away
from home. I've always got along on my own."
But life as a
solitary man on a sports team can become unbearable, and not even Bossy could
be an island. He quickly found a kindred soul in Trottier, who, like Bossy,
prefers hot fudge sundaes to beer and Maxwell Smart reruns to late hours in
taverns in Edmonton. "I call them 'Bread and Butter,' " says Islander
Wing Garry Howatt.
"If I didn't
have Bryan as a friend, I don't think I would have been able to get through the
last three years," Bossy says. "With Bryan, I was accepted as myself
from the first day. I don't have to worry about what I say or how I
"Mike may be too thin-skinned or sensitive, but he's coming around. You
can't needle him and get results as much anymore."