The New York Islanders dynasty, part one
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
Bossy is the only NHL player to have scored 50 or more goals for nine straight seasons.
This week marks 40 years from when former New York Islanders sniper, and member of the Islanders’ cup-winning dynasty, Mike Bossy reached a notable milestone. On January 24, 1981, in a home game against the Quebec Nordiques, Bossy scored a pair of third period goals—becoming the second NHL player to score 50 goals in 50 games.
The first player to score 50 goals in 50 games was Montreal Canadiens legend, Maurice “Rocket” Richard. On March 18, 1945, it was the Habs’ final game of the regular season on the road against the Boston Bruins at the Boston Garden. The “Rocket” scored his 50th goal at 17:45 of the third period—beating the Bruins’ Harvey Bennett. Elmer Lach got an assist on the milestone goal.
Mike Bossy was drafted in the first round by the New York Islanders in 1977 (15th pick overall). He played junior hockey with Laval National in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Bossy had a reputation for scoring goals—and that reputation would not be disputed. In his first three seasons with the Islanders from 1977 till 1980, Bossy scored 53, 69, and 68 goals. The following season, in January 1981, Bossy had scored 48 goals in 47 games—but would not score in his next two games. Game 50 would be a home game at Nassau Coliseum as the Islanders faced the Quebec Nordiques.
Bossy remembered struggling during the game. After two periods, he had not scored. Bossy recalled feeling very worried that his objective to score 50 goals in 50 games may not come to fruition. A YouTube NHL segment features Bossy discussing how challenging it was during the game against the Nordiques: “I dreaded that game because Michel Bergeron was the coach [and he] coached against me in junior. And Alain Côté was the guy who used to check me all the time when we played against the Nordiques. And I said, ‘Oh boy, this is going to be murder!’ And it was. It ended up, not only was I tired mentally—I was tired physically. I went the first two periods without a goal. And between the second and the third, I was thinking, well, what am I going to tell the press after if I don’t even get to 49? And what a disaster this is!”
But in the third period, with the Islanders on the power play, Bossy scored his 49th goal on a backhander at 15:50. Then at 18:31, he finally scored his 50th goal. Bossy, standing inside the left faceoff circle, received a pass from Bryan Trottier. The puck was bouncing but Bossy was able to snap a quick wrist shot through the legs of Nordiques’ goalie, Ron Grahame. “It was physically and mentally tiring, but it was all worth it,” Bossy says in the same NHL segment. Other players joining the exclusive 50 goals in 50 games club are Wayne Gretzky (three times), Mario Lemieux (once), and Brett Hull (two times).
Bossy played 10 seasons in the NHL before retiring in 1987 due to back injuries. He played 752 NHL games, scoring 573 goals—with 553 assists for 1,126 points. He won four Stanley Cups with the Islanders; and he won the Conn Smythe Trophy. In addition, he won the Calder Memorial Trophy (rookie of the year), and is a three-time winner of the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (most gentlemanly player). He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991. Notably, Bossy is the only NHL player to have scored 50 or more goals for nine straight seasons. Also, Bossy and Wayne Gretzky share the record for most 60-goal seasons (five). Remarkably, only Bossy has the highest goals-per-game percentage in NHL history—scoring a goal in 76 percent of his games.
This is the first of four articles commemorating the New York Islanders’ dynasty of winning four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1979 till 1983. Next week, the building of the Islander dynasty; and the 40th anniversary of their second cup victory in 1981 over the Minnesota North Stars.