There really is no secret,” Mike Bossy insists. “I try to position myself before I actually get the puck and then get the shot away as quick as I can.”
Somehow that does not explain why Bossy, at the tender age of 22 and in only his second professional year, has already made hockey history.
His body seems designed for the game: six feet, 185 pounds, thick muscular forearms, wide wrists, short, broad fingers. Some coaches and players call his hands the “fastest” in the league. He is intelligent and relaxed. His competitive instincts are simple: “I just love to score.” There is even an overlay of humility. “I thank God,” he says, and means it, “for the natural ability He gave me.”
When all of these attributes hit the ice at right wing for the New York Islanders, records topple. Bossy scored his 100th pro goal this season in his 129th game—sooner than Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull or Maurice Richard. (The old record was 179 games.) Bossy’s 53 goals last year broke the rookie mark of 44 set in 1972. And earlier this season he scored in 10 consecutive games—a feat matched in modern times by only two other players.
Though besieged by press and fans, Bossy keeps his ego in firm control. He is married to his teenage sweetheart, Lucie, now 23, and they occupy a modest rented duplex on Long Island. Pointedly shunning the glitter of nearby New York City, they prefer to stay at home, watch television and listen to soft rock. (While both grew up in French-speaking families, Mike is bilingual; Lucie is trying to improve her English by listening to Americans on TV.) “He’s quiet and I’m quiet,” says Lucie, who is expecting their first child in September, “that’s all.” She attends every Islander home game but sits in the upper deck rather than with the other team wives.
Mike was born in Montreal, one of 10 children. He began skating at age 3 after his father, an industrial engineer, watered down the snow in the backyard to make a rink. Mike scored 21 goals in his first game in the “mites” league as a 6-year-old. In the peewee league he was responsible for 170 goals in 40 games one season. By the time he joined the Quebec junior league at age 16, he had developed a national reputation as a scorer. His defensive skills were another matter. “I got lazy in the juniors,”, he admits. “The coaches never stressed defense as much as offense.” That may have been the reason 14 teams, including the hometown Canadiens, passed him over in the 1977 draft.
For the Islanders, Bossy has proven to be more than adequate defensively. In addition to harassing opposition forwards routinely, Bossy in a recent game threw himself in front of the Islander net and blocked the puck with his body. Afterward he admitted, “I must have been crazy.” There was no question that he would be voted rookie of the year for 1977-78, and he is a reason the Islanders post the most serious threat to the Montreal champions in the Stanley Cup playoffs next month.
Success has not come to Bossy without a price. “Last year we were all a little jealous of all the ink he got,” Islander goalie Glenn Resch, a six-year veteran, said earlier this season. “It’s just human nature. But no one feels that way now.” One reason may be that Bossy has gone out of his way to praise teammates Bryan Trottier, a friend off the ice, and Clark Gillies—and his improved passing has boosted their goal scoring too. The three men make up the most respected forward line in hockey.
Bossy, who is now serving out a two-year contract with the Islanders, expects a hefty increase in his current $65,000 salary. He vows not to make the standard threat about leaving the team—”I like it here and want to stay,” he says. Bossy adds, however, “I expect to get paid what I’m worth.” Islander president Bill Torrey says bravely, “When the time comes, I assure you I will make him a total offer that will be as good as he can get anywhere else.”