One of the purest goal scorers the game of hockey has ever seen, Mike Bossy spent ten outstanding seasons with the New York Islanders and won four straight Stanley Cup titles on the way to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The Bossy File
The 15th overall selection in the 1977 NHL Amateur Draft, Bossy instantly made every team that passed over him regret their decision as he went on to have one of the most remarkable rookie seasons with the New York Islanders in 1977-78.
A team on the rise after some early struggles, the Isles were developing into a serious contender by the mid-1970s with talents like Clark Gillies, Billy Harris, and Bryan Trottier up front, strong defense from the remarkable Denis Potvin, and a solid tandem of Billy Smith and Glenn “Chico” Resch in net. Bossy proved to be the missing ingredient as he scored a then-record 53 goals in his freshman year and easily walked away with the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year for 1977-78.
During his sophomore campaign, “The Boss” was on fire as he paced all scorers with 69 goals. Collectors got their first glance at him on cardboard that year, too, as he was prominently featured in both the Topps and O-Pee-Chee releases. The O-Pee-Chee card in particular remains in high demand until this day, especially in top condition, since that set is plagued by rough edges and poor centering. The root cause for this is the technology O-Pee-Chee utilized to cut the cards. They actually used wires in the process instead of blades, which also caused the sheets to shift during the process. You can see examples of both on eBay here.
As the 1980s dawned, Bossy was regarded as one of the game’s brightest stars even with the rise of Wayne Gretzky in Edmonton. He was an integral part of Long Island’s first Stanley Cup championship in 1979-80 and he followed that up with a record-breaking performance the next year.
At the time, one of the most daunting records in hockey lore was Maurice Richard’s incredible 50 goals in 50 games that was accomplished back in 1944-45. Many talents tried to approach that standard in the years that followed, but Bossy was the first to match it back on January 24, 1981 when he scored a beautiful goal on Ron Grahame of the Quebec Nordiques.
Another Stanley Cup was on the way later that season and Bossy continued to be a dominant performer as he led the league with 17 goals and 18 assists for 35 points. In the second round, he and Gretzky went head-to-head in the postseason for the first time and the Islanders needed just five games to beat the Minnesota North Stars for the title.
Four Straight Stanley Cups
The firewagon style of offense that set the tone for hockey in the 1980s was approaching its peak in 1981-82 and Bossy set career marks with 83 assists and 147 points. During this era, he was a sought-after spokesman and was featured prominently in promotions that did not include Gretzky, who was beginning an endorsement empire of his own. At the time, it was already cost-prohibitive for some companies to spend a little extra to include Gretzky, so Bossy was certainly an excellent candidate to turn the spotlight on.
Bossy’s importance to the Islanders was never more important than in that year’s playoff run. He scored 17 goals, none more important than the Stanley Cup clincher against a surprising Vancouver Canucks squad that ran out of steam. As a result of his playoff efforts, he was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Like all sports dynasties, an end eventually has to come. Before the fall from grace, Bossy’s Islanders claimed one more title in 1982-83. This time, their final opponent was Gretzky and the Oilers and the veteran squad was able to retain their crown. Not only that, Bossy scored the season-ending goal for the second straight year. During the regular schedule, Bossy scored 60 goals for the fourth time and his gentlemanly play earned a Lady Byng Trophy as well.
Back Injury and Retirement
Injuries slowed Bossy a bit in 1983-84, but he still managed to hit the 118-point mark and bring home the Byng for the second straight year. The Drive for Five failed to materialize and the Islanders dynasty was brought down by the Oilers.
Over the next three seasons, Bossy still produced at a fantastic clip and eventually registered a ninth straight 50-goal campaign in 1985-86 (to go along with a third Lady Byng). The fortunes of the Islanders also slowly declined as their core players aged and were traded away. With only a few strong prospects to carry the torch, there was nowhere to go but down – especially when Bossy’s back woes caused him to miss action in 1986-87 and eventually forced him to retire.
Underrated Hobby Star
In retirement, Bossy has been regularly featured in trading card releases from several manufacturers. He has regularly signed for them and some have utilized pieces of his game-used equipment in memorabilia cards. Additionally, he does occasionally sign at trading card shows, despite not collecting much in his youth.
The legacy of Bossy in the hobby is an interesting one. While those that grew up watching him have fond memories of his on-ice achievements, he retired before the trading card hobby began to boom in the early 1990s. Without active play to boost his card values in that era, they have suffered slightly over time in comparison to some of his peers. A second-year Bossy card in high grade can be found for just a few dollars. Regardless, he does have an impressive cardboard legacy in classic O-Pee-Chee and Topps sets. His modern cards are quite affordable, but the also serve as a fitting tribute to one of the NHL’s 100 Greatest Players.