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Schwartz: Bossy Embracing Islanders' Fast Start To Final Season In Nassau

By Peter Schwartz
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Mike Bossy heard plenty of those cheers at the Nassau Coliseum during his 10-year Hall of Fame career. In fact, 27 years after was forced to retire because of a back injury, the Islanders all-time leading goal scorer still hears it from the fans whenever he ventures through the old barn.

"I still feel it," said Bossy, who scored 573 regular season goals for the Islanders and another 85 in the playoffs.

Today, Bossy splits time between his native Montreal and Long Island. He works for the Islanders as VP of Corporate Sponsorship and Partnership Marketing and is in his first season as an analyst for MSG Network.

Being around a lot has given him the chance for plenty of interaction with the good folks in Islanders Country.

"Being at the Coliseum quite often I see a lot of fans," Bossy said. "I still receive a lot of well wishes and thanks for the memories from a lot of people at the Coliseum."

But those meetings with the fans in the "old barn" are winding down. The Isles are currently playing in their 43rd and final season at Bossy's old playground. The franchise will move to the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn for the 2015-16 campaign.

While many people are already getting emotional and nostalgic over the team's impending departure from Long Island, Bossy said he is too busy having fun watching the current Islanders' impressive start to the season.

"I guess as the year goes on and we approach the end of the season I will certainly have more time to reflect on it," Bossy said. "For the time being, I'm just enjoying the season that the team is having. I'm excited. I'm happy for them."

When "The Boss" gets around to reflecting on many Islanders memories at the Coliseum, he'll think about the great moments that he was part of. The Islanders won three out their four Stanley Cups on Coliseum ice. Bossy also enjoyed plenty of individual achievements at the old arena.

Bossy's rookie season in 1977-78 featured a 3-1 win over the Bruins in his home debut and he scored his 50th goal of the season at home. He would finish his rookie campaign with 53 goals and won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie.

Mike Bossy Steve Babineau NHLI via Getty Images
Islanders legend Mike Bossy scored 573 goals during his 10-year Hall of Fame career. (Photo: Steve Babineau NHLI via Getty Images)

During the 1980-81 campaign, Bossy reached the 50 goals in 50 games plateau at the Coliseum with two third period tallies against the Quebec Nordiques. He finished the season with 68 goals, one shy of his career high set in 1978-79.

There were countless other memorable moments on Hempstead Turnpike in Uniondale.

"I scored my first 50th goal at the Coliseum and I scored my last 50th goal at the Coliseum so a lot of great memories," said Bossy.

Among Bossy's other memorable achievements, he tallied the Stanley Cup-winning goals in 1982 and 1983, won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP in 1982 and was a five-time first team NHL All-Star.

Bossy's No. 22 sweater was retired by the Islanders in 1992 and raised to the Coliseum rafters.

But that banner along with the other retired numbers and championship banners are going to be moving to Brooklyn at the end of the season. It's still mind-boggling to a lot of people that a deal couldn't be reached to keep the Islanders on Long Island.

The news that came prior to the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season stunned Bossy as well.

"I was disappointed that nothing could be arranged to keep the team there," he said. "You have to sit back and accept what was done."

Since their inception back in 1972, the Islanders have enjoyed a very special relationship with their fan base. What has made it so unique is that you could run into an Islanders player just about anywhere, like a restaurant, mall, or even just around the neighborhood.

There was always the feeling that the Islanders belonged to their fans.

"We were a big part of the community and the community was a big part of the team," said Bossy, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991. "We had a great relationship, one with the other, and I have very fond memories of all of that also."

Mike Bossy
Peter Schwartz and Mike Bossy back in 2013. (Photo: Peter Schwartz)

And soon those memories will shift about 30 miles west as the Islanders re-unite with the Nets, a former Coliseum co-tenant, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. A team moving into a new arena or stadium is commonplace these days, especially here in the New York/New Jersey area where the Yankees, Mets, Jets, Giants, Nets and Devils have all moved into new homes in recent years while the Knicks and Rangers now enjoy a renovated Madison Square Garden.

And now the Islanders will have to get used to a new crib, but that's life.

"It will just be weird in general having a new home for the Islanders, but C'est la vie," said Bossy. "Things like that happen all of the time. We'll still be in New York and we'll still be a New York team so the memories will be shifted but they'll always be in my heart that they were at the Coliseum."

The Islanders have already had a sneak peek at their future home having played a pair of preseason games in Brooklyn. Barclays Center is a magnificent building but there are some issues as many seats have obstructed views for hockey.

However, it will be the Islanders' home and all parties involved will have to make the best of it.

"I know the people at the Barclays Center and I know they're going to do their utmost to make it the most comfortable and the best hockey experience that existing fans and new fans can get at a hockey game," said Bossy.

There's no doubting the atmosphere that the Islanders have enjoyed at the Coliseum when they're playing well and the barn is packed. The great thing about this season is that the Islanders are playing so well that the Coliseum has been rocking like it did in the 1980s.

You know ... when Bossy and the Islanders were gathering all that hardware.

"What's nice about this year and the start of the season the team has had is that they are making me remember those years," Bossy said. "They're reminding me of how loud it was in the building."

While the Coliseum has been loud this season for the current day Islanders, there will be a night in January when Bossy is treated to one final salute from the fans and the organization.

Just like the other Islanders legends who have had their number retired, Bossy will be honored with a night at the Coliseum with a mini-locker giveaway for fans that purchase a "Tradition on Ice" game ticket. Bossy will lead the team onto the ice and drop the ceremonial first puck.

He is sure to get a thunderous ovation from the fans.

"Who doesn't like to get applauded?" Bossy said. "I will go out onto the ice and savor every moment of it."

And so will all the fans that are savoring every last moment at the Coliseum.

Bossy, the fans, and the organization are hoping the old barn can get a proper sendoff in the way of a long playoff run by the Islanders.

Follow Peter on Twitter at @pschwartzcbsfan. You can also follow Mike Bossy at @Bossy5050 and the Islanders at @NYIslanders

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