The Recorder – Keeping Score: Bossy tells all

The Recorder – Keeping Score: Bossy tells all

Good morning!
45 years ago this January 18, an accumulation of snow and ice caused the Hartford Civic Center’s roof to collapse. It was early morning and no one was hurt, but for the next two years the Hartford Whalers played their home games at the Springfield Civic Center. For local hockey fans and reporters, it was a dream come true.

One night after the Whalers played the Islanders, I walked into the visitors’ locker room expecting it to be empty. Two players sat against the wall and relaxed in the afterglow of another victory, Bryan Trottier and Mike Bossy. We nodded to each other and I sat down and listened to them replay the game, impressed to be in the presence of two future Hall of Famers.

After Bossy died in April, my East Longmeadow dentist Larry Life sent me the link to Bossy’s “Letter to my younger self” he wrote for The Players’ Tribune in 2017. Youth is wasted on the young as the saying goes, and Bossy was telling the 17-year-old version of himself what to expect as he advanced from youth to junior hockey and up to the NHL.

“Boys don’t smoke cigarettes and drink coffee anymore,” he began. “I hope you’ve enjoyed your beautiful nose for the past 14 years, it’s not going to be so straight anymore.”

He was one of 10 children who lived with his parents in a 4½-room apartment outside Montreal. He slept on a cot “behind a little curtain at the end of a hallway” that was close enough that he could hear Hockey Night in Canada that his father had on the TV.

After he turned 17, the Laval Titan of the Quebec Major Juniors lured him to play for them by moving his family into a new house near the field. In four seasons he scored 308 goals in 251 games.

Bossy was offended by people who said scoring goals was easy for him. He would shoot on a board in the yard until his feet were frozen. His mother made him thaw them in a bucket of cold water because hot water “would make the toes fall off.”

His father flooded the backyard with a hose and came in with icicles frozen to his eyebrows. “Thousands of miles away in western Canada, Bryan’s father flooded the pond behind his house by cutting up a beaver pond,” Bossy wrote.

He wrote about being beaten in chess, becoming blind and cold-blooded. “Other teams are going to target you, bigtime… Slashing and cross-checking will be so common it’s barely worth mentioning.”

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He fell in love with the girl named Lucie who worked behind the snack bar. He bought a bar of chocolate every day until he finally worked up the courage to talk to her, ask her out, and eventually marry her.

He tells his younger self that he is sitting in his lawyer’s office on moving day waiting for the phone to ring. Teams thought he was too shy and scared to survive in the NHL. The first 12 teams passed until the Islanders took him. GM Bill Torrey asked Bossy why he thought he was being voted down in contract negotiations. Bossy said because he’s going to score 50 goals his rookie season.

“I still don’t know where it came from. It just came out,” writes Bossy. Torrey laughed. So did his agent, but Bossy scored 53 goals his rookie season.

Coach Al Arbor put him on par with Trottier and Clark Gillies. “You want to develop tremendous chemistry with (Trottier), but fall short with the Stanley Cup. You will be hacked and slashed mercilessly. You tell the press you’re not going to fight. It’s pointless and insane.”

In the first game of the 1980 Stanley Cup (Finals), Mel Bridgman takes a run at him. “Big, mean, nasty Bridgman.” Bossy collides with Bridgman and knocks him to the ice. “This collision set the tone for the next four years. You want to win the game in overtime, and the Stanley Cup, and three more Stanley Cups to follow.”

After 10 seasons, Bossy’s back goes over him. He blames a broken kneecap in high school doing the long jump. “And when the back goes, it’s over. That’s just how life works. There is only so much of our own history that we write for ourselves.

“We don’t get to write the beginning and the end, but we can listen to Hockey Night in Canada and talk to the girl at the snack bar and stop smoking and run over Mel Bridgman. We can look back and say, Thank God I was an Islander and I love you Bryan Trottier.”


UMASS ARMY: The Army will take no prisoners this afternoon at Amherst. It needs wins against UMass and Navy to be bowl eligible. It will be ugly if coach Don Brown can’t find a way to stop the wishbone. Last week against UConn, the Black Knights rushed for 320 yards and passed for zero.

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On the season, they have rushed for 3,019 yards and 31 touchdowns and passed for 825 yards and five TDs.

Army is a 20-point favorite. The money line is $100 to win $800 on Minutemen, or $1,400 to win $100 on Army.


The backlash was inevitable after I quoted Ithaca grad Adam Wodon as saying the Ithaca-Cortland game is the “biggest little game in America.”

“Do a Google search and you’ll see the entire first page quoting Amherst vs. Williams,” writes Amherst alum John Lacey. “His claim is fraudulent.”

Williams SID Dick Quinn sent a list of sports networks (ESPN, NESN, etc.) calling the Amherst-Williams rivalry “The Biggest Little Game in America.”

It is true that while the Cortland-Ithaca series dates back to 1930, the Amherst-Williams date back to 1884 when Jeffery Amherst performed the ceremonial coin toss. (Just kidding.)

In a pleasant compromise, Quinn said, “Ithaca v Cortland is the most attended little game in America.” It actually brought over 40,000 to Yankee Stadium two weeks ago.


Speaking of backlash, Kevin Pelosky of South Deerfield writes: “Why don’t you follow your own advise (sic) of no politics… Your (sic) such a *** Callahan from WEEI… Hope you get run over by a horse by the track.”

Well, Kevin, I steer clear of politics, and yes, I have been run over by a horse on the course – metaphorically speaking.

■■■■’s Mark Feinsand started the hot stove season by finding a free agent fit for any team: reliever David Robertson to the Red Sox, Justin Verlander to the Yankees and southpaw Carlos Rodon to the Mets. As for notable departures, if Feinsand ran baseball Nathan Eovaldi would go to Baltimore, Xander Bogaerts to the Cubs, Jacob deGrom to the Braves and Aaron Judge to the Dodgers.


SQUIBBERS: The UMass hockey team looked headed for its sixth straight loss on Saturday. The Minutemen trailed UNH 2-0 after 20 minutes in Durham, but roared back to score three goals in three minutes and win, 4-2. Asked what he said in the locker room between periods, coach Greg Carvel replied, “I didn’t say anything. I yelled.”… Yankees GM Brian Cashman slept on the field at Yankee Stadium on Nov. 17 to help raise money for Covenant House for homeless children. Red Sox management would simply ask fans to sleep outside. … Buying ski tickets is like buying plane tickets, the longer you wait, the more they cost. At Killington, an all-day lift pass for Saturday, January 14 is $156 this week, but more as the day approaches. Parking costs $35 for a spot almost a kilometer away from the base lodge. … The Miami Hurricanes have a sugar daddy in billionaire John Ruiz, who launders his contributions via the name, image, likeness program. Ruiz told the Wall Street Journal, “This is not about winning the game of sports, this is about winning the game of life.” Oh yes. Send the vomit bucket. .… The WSJ also reported that after Qatar banned beer during the World Cup, fans from Wales and England headed to the Canary Islands where it’s hot and the beer costs $1 a pint. … The UMass hockey team plays the Friendship Four in Belfast near where Led Zeppelin debuted “Stairway to Heaven” at Ulster Hall. … Kudos to the UMass men’s soccer and field hockey teams for finishing 7-4-7 and 15-5, respectively. Meanwhile, longtime basketball booster John Kennedy believes the Minutemen men’s team will be a top 50 squad. “Best defense I’ve seen a UMA team play in years,” he wrote. … Penn State was the first D-1 hockey team to reach 10 wins, closely followed by Denver, UConn, Michigan and St. Cloud. … Football players wear helmets and football players wear manbuns. Sirius-XM’s Chris Russo after the Americans’ 1-1 draw with Wales: “This (Christian) Pulisic — how do you pronounce his name? What a hypochondriac! What a diva! Every time he is touched, he screams, where is the yellow card? How dare they push me to the ground!” …… Jets fan ‘Mitch’ on Sirius-XM’s Movin’ the Chains: “For (Zach Wilson) to get on the podium like that, he already has a face you want to punch when you look at him.” …. SportsHub’s Scott Zolak after Marcus Jones drove a spike through Jets fans’ hearts on Sunday: “Atta boy Jets! Get started with your buses! See you back in New York!”

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Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has written his observations on sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached at [email protected]

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