Mike Posey, the hockey Hall of Fame winger who played a key role in propelling New Yorkers to four consecutive Stanley Cup championships in the early 1980s, died Friday at his Montreal home. He was 65 years old.
The cause was lung cancer, said Kimber Auerbach, director of communications for residents of the island. Busy announced he had the disease in October.
The Islanders, founded as an extended team for the National Hockey League in 1972, won just 12 games in their first season at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island and didn’t do much better the following season.
But they did start to make it to the playoffs under general manager Bill Torey and coach Al Arbor, who assembled teams that included Posey on the right wing and his teammates Brian Trotier in the middle, Clark Gillis on the left wing, Denis Botvin in defense and Billy Smith in goal. (Gillis died of cancer on January 21 at 67.)
The Islanders defeated the Philadelphia Flyers, Minnesota North Stars, Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers in the 1980-1983 Stanley Cup, then lost to the Oilers in the 1984 Cup Final.
The Canadian-born Bossy was among the fastest skaters in the NHL, possessing an uncanny ability to shake off wrist shots before opposing goalkeepers had any idea a disc was in their way.
“Mike got the fastest hands I’ve ever seen,” said Arbor, a former defender who played alongside Jordi Howe with the Detroit Red Wings and Bobby Hull with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Bossy led the NHL twice in goals, with 69 goals in the 1978-79 season and 68 in the 1980-81 season. He scored no fewer than 51 goals in each of his first nine seasons before a back injury was limited to 38 in his final season. His 85 goals in 129 playoff games were the most in NHL history at the time.
Bossy scored 573 goals and had 553 assists in 752 regular season games over his 10 NHL seasons, all with the Islanders.
He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991.
A witty and slightly built player, Bossy defied the tough checks and refused to get into fights.
“The guys knew he wasn’t going to fight,” Trotier told Sports Illustrated in 1999. “They’d punch him and shoot him with a spear, it didn’t matter. He didn’t need a lot of space. The guy was so creative, he could make something special with just half an inch.”
Posey recalls in his memoir “The Chief: The Mike Posey Story” (1988, with Barry Meisel): “I probably developed what the Scouts called my quick hand and quick release more than anything else in my self-defense.” “The NHL was the zoom, the zoom, and the zoom in comparison to the beginners. I learned to make quick passes and take quick shots to avoid getting hit every time I had a disc.”
Posey won the Lady Being Trophy for his cute play in 1983, 1984 and 1986. He only suffered 210 penalty minutes.
He was chosen by the Islanders as the 15th pick in the 1977 NHL Amateur Draft after being overrun by teams that, despite his scoring goals in junior hockey, thought he didn’t have the checking skills to survive in the NHL
It didn’t take Bossy long to prove otherwise. He won the 1977-78 Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL Rookie of the Year, and has scored 53 rookie goals for his 15 years. He won the Con Smith Cup as the most valuable player in the 1982 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Michael Posey was born on January 22, 1957 in Montreal, one of ten children of Borden and Dorothy Posey. His father was of Ukrainian origin, and his mother was English. Borden Bossy flooded the family apartment building’s backyard during the winter to create an ice rink, and Mike learned to skate at 3.
He dropped out of Laval Catholic High School to join Laval’s national team in the Major League Hockey League in Quebec near the end of the 1972-73 season and played in four full seasons with Laval, scoring 309 goals.
Then he was chosen by the islanders in the draft.
Posey’s NHL career was cut short due to a chronic injury. At the beginning of the islanders’ training camp in 1986, he suffered from back pain. He missed 17 games during the regular season and injured his left knee in the playoffs, when the Flyers spent on the island in a preliminary round. Doctors eventually discovered that he had two infected discs that could not be repaired with surgery. He sat in the 1987-1988 season, then retired from hockey in October 1988.
The Islanders retired Posey’s No. 22 in March 1992, making him the second player to receive that honor after Botvin.
Posey’s survivors include his wife, Lucy Kramer, Posey, and their two daughters, Josian and Tania.
Posey, who was bilingual, pursued commercial and radio projects in Canada after his playing career ended. When he was found to have cancer, he took time off from his position as a hockey analyst for the Montreal-based French-language TVA Sports.
For all that Posey and his Stanley Cup champions had accomplished, they lacked the charisma of his contemporaries, Oilers Hall of Fame center, Wayne Gretzky, and Gretzky-led Edmonton teams that won four Stanley Cups in the 1980s.
“We’ve never had the millionth of recognition we should have,” Posey once told Sports Illustrated. “We had a very humble organization. They didn’t want the guys to do so much because they thought hockey might suffer. People don’t talk about us at the first mention of great teams.”
He added, “I think the older I get, I’m tired of telling people I’ve scored over 50 for nine years in a row. Everything I say makes it sound like I’m bitter, but I’m not at all. It’s only when you do something as well as our team did, that you like to get an appreciation for it.”
As for comparisons to Gretzky, Posey told the New York Times in January 1986, when he became the 11th player in National Hockey League history to score 500 goals: “People call him the Great Gretzky. I can’t compete with that. I feel comfortable with what I helped my team achieve.” achieve it. And whether I think of Wayne Gretzky as the greatest thing since apple pie is another question.”
Maya Coleman contributed to the report.