John Tavares hasn’t forgotten the impact that New York Islanders legend Mike Bossy made on him.
“Mike as a person was tremendous,” the Maple Leafs captain and former Islander said on Friday.
“He was really good to me, especially my first number of years on the Island. Saw him quite a bit and just loved the game and loved to talk hockey and specifically goal scoring.
“If not the best, he was one of the best at it and was part of one of the best dynasties in NHL history and had a remarkable career.
“It was cool for me to talk to him about what made him a great player and how he saw the game. Those are the things that you cherish most and that always stick with you.”
The amount of pucks that Bossy, who had been battling lung cancer before dying at the age of 65, put in the net in the NHL is hard for Tavares to fathom.
After Bossy scored at least 70 goals in all four of his seasons with Laval of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, he scored 53 as a rookie with the Islanders in 1977-78. Bossy scored at least 51 goals in each of his first nine NHL seasons, topping 60 five times. Only in his final season of 1986-87, while being bothered by back issues that would end his career, did Bossy not score 50. He had 38 goals in 63 games.
“It’s a remarkable feat,” Tavares said. “His belief in himself and his knack to score was exceptional. He was such a difference-maker for those teams that way and the chemistry he had with (Bryan) Trottier was pretty incredible. It’s amazing when you look at his stats and his productivity year after year, how well he did it and what he accomplished.”
Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe was a kid when Bossy retired, but knew the significance of Bossy’s impact on the game.
“A little too young in terms of watching, but not too young to grow up knowing the legend of Mike Bossy and seeing the highlights and the exploits, his ability to score goals with consistency from the time he entered the league,” Keefe said. “And then the disappointment that all hockey fans had when his career was cut short. The grace and professionalism that he had off the ice, it’s a sad day for not just his family, of course, but the hockey world.”
There was a positive step on Friday for winger Ondrej Kase, who was on the ice for a skate before practice.
Kase has not played since suffering a concussion against Nashville on March 19.
“For Ondrej to be out there, touching the puck and doing what he loves to do, it’s really good to see,” Keefe said. “I chatted with him a bit in the lunch room and he’s in good spirits and seems like it was a good day for him.”
Keefe reiterated that there is no timeline for the return of Kase or defenceman Rasmus Sandin, who suffered a knee injury in the same game versus the Predators. Sandin has been skating more regularly, and Keefe is hopeful both players would be available for the playoffs.
After sitting out against Washington on Thursday, expect veteran forward Jason Spezza to play on Saturday in Ottawa, with Wayne Simmonds coming out. The fourth line at practice was Colin Blackwell between Kyle Clifford and Spezza. Nick Abruzzese, who has not made a great impact in four games after leaving Harvard to sign with the Leafs, also likely will be scratched … Ilya Mikheyev had a good explanation for Ilya Lyubushkin’s first goal in 85 games, coming when Lyubushkin scored in the second period against the Capitals. “I tell him before the game, you have an opportunity to shoot, close your eyes and shoot,” Mikheyev said. So you deserve the credit, then? “Maybe a little bit,” Mikheyev said with a chuckle … Mikheyev’s pair versus the Caps marked his second two-goal game of the season and first since Jan. 1 against Ottawa. “His game continues to grow and I think the confidence continues to build,” Tavares said. “His work rate every day is so impressive, how hard he competes, how driven he is, it’s tremendous to see. He’s a lot of fun to play with.”