BEHIND THE NUMBER: #22
Islanders legend Mike Bossy has his numbers hanging from the rafters. Find out why he picked 22.
Sunday, 08.22.2010 / 9:00 AM ET / News
By Dyan LeBourdais
“You play hockey your whole life and you have the opportunity, during my career anyways, to see other players have their number retired,” said Islanders legend Mike Bossy, who is now the Executive Director of the Islanders Business Club. “You see during the ceremonies what it means to them and you see also the place that it puts them in the teams’ history.”
“So seeing the same thing happen to my number was a humbling event for me,” Bossy continued. “I guess it sort of put the cherry on top of the sundae saying that I had a career that was a full career that was not only successful individually, but also I was part of a great team and that was the reason they were retiring my jersey.”
Although Bossy’s legendary sweater number 22 hangs next to the Islanders five other retired numbers inside the Coliseum, when Bossy first got to the Islanders, sweater number 22 wasn’t his first choice. He originally wanted to wear 17, the number that marked his junior career with the Laval Nationals of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. His dream of number 17, which was taken by Isles center Jude Drouin at the time, quickly became a thing of the past.
“I was given the choice of three numbers, number seven, 16 or 22. And it was very simple. Twenty-two is my birth date,” Bossy said, who was born on January 22, 1957.
Even though Bossy didn’t get the number he originally wanted, when the number 17 eventually became available, he opted out of switching his number. “I think I had like 18 goals in my first 20 games so I figured there wasn’t a good reason to change to number 17,” Bossy said.
And it’s a good thing he didn’t change his number. In his 10-year stretch with the Islanders, Bossy averaged over 100 points-per-season, making him a three-time winner of the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy and helping his team to four consecutive Stanley Cups.
After retiring at the end of the 1987 season, Bossy worked as a television broadcaster for three years covering the Quebec Nordiques. Afterwards, he took a brief hiatus from hockey only to return to the Islanders organization in October 2006.
As the Executive Director of the Islanders Business Club, Bossy attends many games, speaking with fans and conducting business, but he always takes a moment to make a casual joke with one of the younger children in the crowd.
“There will be times when I’ll visit suites during the season and there will be kids in the suites and they don’t remember who Mike Bossy is or was and that he played for the team, so I always jokingly make a reference to them that my sweater is hanging up in the rafters in the building.”
While Bossy enjoys joking with the younger generation of Islanders fans, he also likes working for the team that he won four Stanley Cups with.
“I’m enjoying my work with the team,” Bossy said. “It’s not on the hockey side. It’s in business operations and I’m trying to do my little part to make the team successful in a completely different area than I was trying to when I played, so it’s a nice challenge.”
Even though he works at the Coliseum on a daily basis, looking at the teams’ history is still an awesome experience. “It’s cool to see my jersey up there every time I come to a game or walk in to the arena, whether it’s with clients or just by myself,” said Bossy.
Previous owners of the notorious number 22 were Ron Smith, Bob Cook and Victor Teal.
Ron Smith, the first Islander to wear sweater number 22, split the 1972-73 season between the Islanders and the New Have Nighthawks of the AHL. During the season, he played 11 games for the Islanders, scoring 1 goal and 1 assist for 2 points and 14 penalty minutes.
After Bob Cook was traded to the Islanders by the Detroit Red Wings in 1972-73, he took over the number 22 where he played in 33 games scoring 8 goals, 6 assists for 14 points and 14 penalty minutes. The following season, Cook played in 22 games, scoring 2 goals and 1 assist for 3 points and 4 penalty minutes before being traded to the Baltimore Clippers of the AHL.
The third Islander to wear number 22 was Victor Teal, who accomplished his dream of stepping on the NHL ice when he played in one Islanders game during the 1973-74 season.
Bossy became the second Islander to see his number retired on March 3, 1992.