July 20 2011
By Glen Goodhand/Hockey Historical Highlights
Michael Jean Bossy detested violence in hockey and it was the very thing that prematurely ended his career in the game.
Described by some as the purest sniper of all time, shinny thugs sought to hinder his skills around the cage by cross checking across the back, sometimes in repetition, as he stood ready to snap the old boot heel into the cage.
The result was that after 63 games in his 10th campaign in hockey’s premier circuit, he could no longer bear the excruciating pain afflicting his often-ambushed spine and he was forced into retirement.
Never a fighter, and one who resisted retaliation, he answered the attacks on his body by bulging the twine behind opposing goaltenders.
In his rookie season he lit the red goal lamp 53 times, a record that stood for 15 years, before the amazing Teemu Selanne potted 76 in his freshman year. He was rewarded with the Calder Trophy, symbolic of the best first-year skater in the loop.
Perhaps considered cocky by some observers, he nevertheless informed his coach that he would manage to hit the half century mark in that initial year.
He went on to tally 50 or more for the next nine campaigns, five times reaching the 60 mark and beyond. He also matched “Rocket” Richard’s 50 goals in 50 games during the 1980-81 schedule, sharing with his closest friend, Brian Trottier, that he “needed a greater challenge” after three consecutive 50-goal seasons. He very nearly fell short of his aim. But with 1 ½ minutes remaining in game number 50, centre Trottier slipped him the disc and he whacked it out of mid air in behind the Nordique’s Ron Grahame
But this milestone didn’t come easy on or OFF the ice. As he reached that magic number he received more than one death threat. The anonymous caller never was found out. Whether it was someone jealous of Richard’s record, or the angry boyfriend of a young girl he had counselled it was never known. After several nerve-wracking days, and after Mike had managed to pull off the feat, nothing more became of it.
A pure goal scorer, the slim right winger scored from every angle and under every imaginable circumstance. But during the 1982 playoffs against Vancouver he amazed even himself with one tally. Bearing down on the Canuck’s Richard Brodeur, he was dumped by rearguard Lars Lindgren, just as the goalie kicked back the rebound from his initial shot. Bossy was in the air, horizontal with the ice surface, about to land on his stomach. Somehow he managed to cradle the puck and flick it a backhander toward the cage. Defenseman Colin Campbell slid behind “King Richard” to block it, but it hopped over him and into the rigging.
As mentioned, the eight-time All Star favoured clean play regardless of how badly he was dumped, butt-ended, or slashed. He won the Lady Byng Trophy three times. But even self control has its limits. Late in his short-lived tenure in the Big Time, with his painful back giving him fits, the dirty tactics used against him were finally affecting his approach to the game. Shadowing specialist Guy Carbonneau ran into him one night with his elbow and with a high stick.
He retaliated in kind, and was given a major penalty, which was totally out of character for him.
His emotional stress betrayed his physical deterioration. The handwriting was on the wall. His stint in the NHL would soon be over.
But before it was, he fired 573 pucks behind opposing netminders.
He entered the Hall of Fame in 1991.