Two Gone Too Soon

The Montreal Canadiens announced the passing of Guy Lafleur this morning. Lung cancer. Age 70. His death comes just one week after Mike Bossy of the New York Islanders. Age 65. Lung cancer. Too soon for the two of them. Too sad for their millions of fans.

Admittedly, I was too young and probably too stupid, to appreciate just how good Guy Lafleur — and the Montreal dynasty of the 1970s — was. A Toronto native, and a Leafs fan of teams that were quite good, but not nearly Canadiens good, my memories of Lafleur are mostly of jealousy.

We didn’t see a lot of Mike Bossy on Canadian TV … until the playoffs rolled around. By the time of the Islanders dynasty (a couple of years after the Maple Leafs eliminated them in the 1978 quarterfinals — before losing to Montreal — in one of the two biggest highlights of my young Leafs fandom) the Leafs were in decline, I was a little bit older, and Mike Bossy was a sight to behold. He didn’t have the obvious speed and style of Guy Lafleur, but nobody scored goals like Bossy did. Of course, by then, I was more into Wayne Gretzky, so I probably didn’t appreciate Bossy as much as I should have either.

So much has been written and said about these two superstars following their deaths. I don’t know that I have anything new to add. So, I’ll contribute something old. Both players were included in chapters of my 2010 book, Twenty Greatest Hockey Goals. It’s a lot of reading, but if you care to, or when you have the time, please check out these stories on Guy Lafleur and Mike Bossy.

6 thoughts on “Two Gone Too Soon

  1. I knew the names more than the players but I felt so sad when I heard the news this morning. Two great players dying so close together and both so young. I did read about both those goals in your book. Amazing. My condolences to all their fans and families.

  2. I was a child in the 1970s and was an avid hockey fan (and I’m still am). My favourite team was the Canadiens, and I passionately hated the Islanders. I didn’t want Bossy to score more goals than Flower! Today, I realize how lucky and privileged I was to see both legends play when they were in their prime (I even had the chance to see Bossy play in his junior years).

    You are right, Eric: gone too soon and too young. As I write these lines, the City of Sherbrooke mourns Flower. There have been special programs on the radio since this morning and it will continue tonight. I talked to my neighbours at lunchtime and we are still in shock. It is surreal.

    All my condolences to the Lafleur family and to all hockey fans out there.

  3. Urrgh. I could write a lot about Lafleur, as I watched his whole NHL career. Losing him twice–as a player and then as a person–leaves two big holes. Cancer is a terrible ending, but in those days of his career–in the 1970’s and 1980’s–a lot of athletes smoked and drank. One thing especially remarkable about Lafleur that few people write about is his stickhandling style. There weren’t a lot of players who used a number 7 stick–or could use it. Lafleur and Esposito stand out as stars I remember who deliberately extended their blades farther than normal to entice their opponents. (Maybe Steve Shutt Of course I never looked at a Lafleur or Esposito stick to check the number but it would have been hard to play the way they did without it, although they could have played with a six I suppose, and it WAS possible to play that way with a six or a five. Then again, maybe my memories are muddled.) Goodbye, Mr. Lafleur! Go with God.

  4. This has been a devastating last few weeks for hockey, especially Quebec fans. These guys were absolute titans of the game. Doesn’t seem fair.

    I remember seeing a game at Nassau as a kid, Bossy scored a hat trick and the Isles won. Coming off the ice he seemed upset and frustrated. The reason?

    He’d also hit the post 3 times. I’ve always thought, imagine if he had even a shred of luck that game

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