By Christian Arnold
The magnitude of what Mike Bossy meant to the New York Islanders organization and its fans was hard to miss on Tuesday night in Elmont.
The Islanders’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Florida Panthers was the first game at UBS Arena since the Isles legend passed away on Friday at the age of 65 following a battle with lung cancer. It was the first chance for the franchise and its fan to mourn the loss and honor the memory of one of hockey’s greatest goal scorers and a man who was equally as great a person.
Signs and No. 22 Mike Bossy jerseys were easy to spot around the arena on Tuesday night and fans placed flowers and handmade tokens in front of the NHL legend’s Hall of Fame plaque that is on the concourse. A fan at one end of the ice had even draped a Bossy jersey over the railing in the 200s section.
“He is an Islander legend. These are his people and I would expect an emotional arena,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said earlier in the day on Tuesday. “He’s meant a lot to the franchise, to the fans, had personal relationships with some of the older players that we have, and the players that have stuck around and live in that community.”
It was hard not to see what Bossy meant to so many people during his career over the course of Tuesday night. Fans gathered around Bossy’s plaque throughout the night, laying flowers and talking about their memories of his time with the Islanders or their interactions with him off the ice.
And the fans revived the chants once heard down the road at Nassau Coliseum as the Islanders honored Bossy’s memory with a pregame video tribute and moment of silence in his honor. Chants of “BOSSY” echoed throughout the arena during the ceremony.
Bossy’s daughter Tanya and granddaughters Alexe and Gabrielle were also in attendance for the night.
“It was pretty special,” said Mathew Barzal. “I looked back into the crowd after the video was done, seen some tears coming down couple of faces and you know, obviously, there’s probably a lot of people in the building tonight that saw him play live and you know, saw him win in Long Island and yeah, it’s just he obviously by the sounds of it, was a pretty special human and a special player.”
The scene that played out Tuesday has become almost commonplace this season for the organization, which had already lost two other franchise greats and members of the dynasty teams from the 1980s this year. Clark Gillies passed away in January and Jean Potvin, who won two cups with the Isles in the 80s and was the brother of another Islanders legend, Denis Potvin, passed away last month.
Still, in a way, those moments also serve as a reminder of just how unique the relationship between the Islanders and its fans is. Especially between those players that helped put Long Island on the map and lead the club to four straight Stanley Cups.
“Islanders fans obviously love their players,” longtime Islander Matt Martin said. “I think they’ve supported us, you know I’ve been here I think 10-plus years, and they’ve always supported us so well. Even in the summertime when I do foundation events they fill it up. When you talk about Potvin and Gillies and Bossy, and these guys that won four cups in a row and brought so much pride to Long Island. To lose these people quickly in a year is pretty tough.”
This story first appeared on amny.com.
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