Mike Bossy wasn't shy about predicting he'd be the first rookie in NHL history to score 50 goals. On April 1, 1978, he made good on his prediction.
Although he scored 309 goals during his four seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Bossy was passed over by 12 teams (the New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs did it twice) in the 1977 NHL Draft before being selected by the New York Islanders with the 15th pick. Bossy's supposed defensive shortcomings were of little concern to coach Al Arbour, who said he could teach the talented right wing how to check but not how to put the puck in the net.
Bossy already held the NHL's rookie record for goals before he stepped onto the ice against the Washington Capitals at Nassau Coliseum. His 49 goals were five more than the previous rookie record of 44 set by Rick Martin of the Buffalo Sabres in 1971-72.
Video: Mike Bossy had record nine straight 50-goal seasons
Although Bossy had been scoreless for six games, the Capitals, who had never defeated the Islanders since entering the NHL in 1974, seemed like the perfect tonic for a slump. But for more than two periods, goaltender Bernie Wolfe frustrated Bossy and the Islanders, limiting New York to a first-period goal by Lorne Henning and leading 2-1 with less than half the third period remaining.
But with 9:27 to play, Washington forward Bill Riley took a penalty, giving Bossy the chance to make history.
Wolfe stopped a shot by Bossy, who got the rebound and jammed the puck into a small opening on the short side at 11:52 for goal No. 50, triggering a shower of confetti from the crowd of 15,317 and the Islanders raced onto the ice to congratulate him.
The milestone even led to an uncharacteristic celebration by Bossy.
"When I saw the puck go in, I was so overjoyed that every bit of frustration left me at once," he said afterward. I didn't care what I looked like."
But Bossy wasn't finished. Another Washington penalty, this one to Bryan Watson with 1:40 remaining in the third period, gave New York another chance on the power play. Bossy found the back of the net with five seconds remaining to give the Islanders a 3-2 win.
"It's like 200 pounds off my back," he shouted over the postgame noise in the dressing room. "And then to get the winner, too. That was even better than No. 50 because, heaven knows, we sure need the points."
Bossy scored two more goals to finish his first NHL season with 53, more than living up to his prediction. It was the first of his nine straight 50-goal seasons, still an NHL record. His career ended at age 30 because of back problems; he finished with 573 goals in 10 seasons and was a cornerstone of the Islanders' four consecutive Stanley Cup-winning teams from 1980-83.