35 years ago, NY Islanders legend Mike Bossy chose retirement over underperforming

New York Islanders v Toronto Maple Leafs
New York Islanders v Toronto Maple Leafs / Graig Abel/GettyImages

Imagine retiring as the sixth-leading scorer in NHL history and feeling that you could have accomplished so much more. That must've been among the thoughts going through the mind of New York Islanders legend and Hockey Hall-of-Famer Mike Bossy when he announced his retirement on Oct. 24, 1988, at just 31 years old.

NY Islanders legend Mike Bossy makes decision to retire

Bossy scored a career-low 38 goals (yes, career-low) in 63 games during the 1986-87 season and then made the decision to take a year off from hockey as he dealt with an ailing back. His last game was Game 7 of the 1987 Patrick Division Final versus the Philadelphia Flyers. He scored for the final time in Game 6 of that series on the power play in a 4-2 Isles win at the Nassau Coliseum.

After a year and a half of waiting for my back to improve, I have finally come to a conclusion -- my back problem has won the battle. Therefore, my NHL career has come to an end.
Mike Bossy

Bossy was a key component of the Islanders dynasty, as the franchise won four consecutive Stanley Cups and 19 straight playoff series from 1980-1984. He finished his career with 573 goals and 553 assists, ranking him 16th on the all-time NHL list in points (1,126) at the time of his retirement.

He won the Calder Trophy in 1977 after scoring a rookie-record 53 goals in his first season. After the Islanders four-game sweep of the Vancouver Canucks in the 1982 Stanley Cup Final, Bossy was awarded the Conn Smythe Award as playoff MVP. 'When it counted, he was there,' head coach Al Arbour said at his retirement ceremony. 'No one ever had two playoff years in succession like he did in 1981 and 1982 when he got 17 goals each year.'

In the years that followed, Bossy stated that he regretted the decision to retire and that it was his pride that pushed him to retire early. After being the purest goal scorer of his generation, the thought of playing in pain and underperforming was too much for him to overcome.