Mike Bossy, a New York Islanders legend who was one of the NHL's all-time greatest goal scorers, has died. He was 65.
His passing was announced by the Islanders on Friday. In October, Bossy revealed he had been diagnosed with lung cancer.
"It is with a lot of sadness that I need to step away from your screens, for a necessary pause,'' Bossy wrote in French in a letter to TVA Sports. "I intend to fight with all the determination and fire you've seen me show on the ice."
The Montreal native was one of the biggest stars of the Islanders dynasty of the early 1980s, winning four Stanley Cups from 1980-83. Over his 10-season career, Bossy scored less than 50 goals only once — in his final campaign before his career was cut short at age 30 by a hip injury — and he scored more than 60 goals five times. With 572 goals in just 752 games, Bossy's 0.76 goals per game is the highest mark in NHL history, ahead of contemporaries Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky.
Bossy was an eight-time All-Star, won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP and three times won the Lady Byng Award for sportsmanship. He retired after the 1986-87 season and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991. After retiring he worked as an NHL broadcaster in English and French media.
It's the third loss from that Islanders era this year after fellow Hockey Hall of Famer Clark Gilles died in January and Jean Potvin died in March.
"The New York Islanders organization mourns the loss of Mike Bossy, an icon not only on Long Island but across the entire hockey world," Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello said in a statement. "His drive to be the best every time he stepped on the ice was second to none. Along with his teammates, he helped win four straight Stanley Cup championships, shaping the history of this franchise forever. On behalf of the entire organization, we send our deepest condolences to the entire Bossy family and all those who grieve this tragic loss."
Led by Bossy, Gillies, Bryan Trottier and defenceman Denis Potvin, the Islanders succeeded Scotty Bowman's 1970s Montreal Canadiens as the NHL's next dynasty before Gretzky's Edmonton Oilers took over the sport.
"Though containing him was the obsession of opposing coaches and checking him the focus of opposing players, Bossy's brilliance was unstoppable and his production relentless throughout his entire career," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.
"Our deepest condolences go out to his wife, Lucie, their daughters, Josiane and Tanya, his former Islanders teammates and his countless fans on Long Island, the New York metropolitan area and throughout the hockey world. He thrilled fans like few others."
In 2017, he was named one of the NHL's 100 greatest players.
"I once asked Mike Bossy why he scored so many goals. Answer: 'I rarely missed the net.' A true natural," Hayley Wickenheiser, a four-time Olympic gold medallist for Canada, said in a Twitter post on Friday.
Before reaching the NHL, Bossy played five seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the Laval National. He had 602 points in 298 QMJHL games. Bossy also represented Canada at the Canada Cup in 1981 and 1984, long before NHL players began going to the Winter Olympics.
Off the ice, Bossy was a leader in the movement to reduce fighting in hockey. In 1979, he told the media that he was never going to fight on the ice.
He wrote about his anti-fighting stance in a 2017 article for The Players Tribune titled "Letter to My Younger Self."
"You need to be prepared for the names you're going to get called. You need to be prepared for how people are going to look at you for making a statement like that in 1979. For a guy who is already unfairly labelled as 'timid,' this is going to be a big deal. Some people in the hockey world will simply not accept that someone who doesn't fight can ever be a winner,'' Bossy wrote.
In the same article, Bossy also told his 14-year-old self that in the future, hockey players would take better care of their health.
"Guys don't smoke cigarettes and drink black coffee at intermission anymore. They drink smoothies and 'stretch,'" he wrote.
With files from Associated Press