Interview with NHL Hall of Famers and New York Islanders Legends: Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, and Clark Gillies

Recently, the Battle of New York was able to sit down with New York Islanders legends, Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy, and Clark Gillies. Trottier played fifteen seasons with the Islanders, accumulating 1,353 points and had his number retired by the club. He helped lead the Islanders to their four Stanley Cups and was enshrined in the NHL Hall of Fame in 1997. Also, Trottier was recently named one of the NHL’s top 100 players in its first 100 years. Mike Bossy is considered the great Islander of all-time and one of the greatest scorers ever. Bossy had his number 9 retired by the Islanders, as well. He’s typically included in a top twenty list of the greatest NHL players in history. Bossy was the second player to score fifty goals in fifty games and holds the record for most consecutive fifty goals seasons. Mike Bossy was inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame in 1991 and was also included as one of the NHL’s best 100 players in its first 100 years. Clark Gillies was one of the fan favorites of the Islanders teams during the 1980’s. His physical presence and offensive ability helped guide the franchise to their Stanley Cups. Clark Gillies was apart of the 2002 NHL Hall of Fame class and the Islanders retired his number 9. These three hall of famers made up the Islanders, “Trio Grande” line. This line was one of the greatest lines of all-time as they were physical, fast, strong, and could score goals. Talking with these Islanders legends was an honor and I loved hearing their stories. 

Bryan Trottier:

What was your favorite Islanders moment?

“Probably the first Stanley Cup with the Islanders was my favorite thing ever in the game of hockey. When Bobby Nystrom scored in overtime, that was probably my favorite moment ever, even though I was on the bench. It was still my favorite moment because I was a champion for the first time. That was the dream I had from the time I was a little kid. Playing in the NHL, winning the Stanley Cup, it was a dream come true. On an individual basis, being inducted in the NHL Hall of Fame, top 100, and being in Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame were just great moments. There aren’t any singular moments on the ice that kinda stand out. Scoring your first goal ever in a career is still hard for me to top. Scoring some overtime goals, game-winning goals, hat tricks, and five goal games were great moments. My first ever goal in the NHL is so vivid in my mind that I can replay it one hundred times, I can dream about it. Billy Smith has the puck along the wall, kicks it out to me, I grab it, look at the net, there’s a defenseman between me and the goal, I just snap a quick shot, goalie was screened a little bit and it gets past his leg. I didn’t see the puck go into the net, but the fans at Nassau Coliseum jumped up and I knew it went in. That moment you dream about your entire life, scoring a goal at the NHL level was surreal. I’ll never forget it. It feels like the greatest thrill in the world.”

What was it like playing for Al Arbour?

“He was a great, great motivator. He was fantastic. He had a system that we all believed in. He believed in it, he made us believe in it. We had a ton of respect for him and he played our legs off. He played us hard, we loved the man. Just loved him.”What was your funniest Islanders moment?”I don’t know if there was a funniest. There were a million funny’s, but not a funniest. Al Arbour was funny, he had a lot of good one-liners. When something happens that’s funny on the ice, or to the team, Al would poke fun at us. That was always pretty fun for all of us. Since Al was our general and our leader, it was nice to see the voice of our team be so lighthearted. I think that it portrayed how we’d be seen on the ice. Whenever Al would poke fun at us or himself, he’d tell us stories. He’d cleverly describe something that happened on the ice, he would kinda put himself in the game. He’d say, oh the same thing happened to me in Detroit in 1957. Rocket Richard was coming down the wall and I thought I had him to the outside, he put the puck right between me. I thought my partner would cover for me. Those are funny moments for me. It was almost like he was talking about moments that could make us buckle up and say that those things happen in a game. Al was fantastic, really fantastic at that stuff.”

How do you feel about the Islanders current regime?

“I don’t know enough about it, but I love Mathew Barzal. I’m a really big Barzal fan. I’ve watched him for a long time and I’m just amazed by his ability. You never lose your Islanders identity, so I can’t help but rooting for the team. I wish them the very best.”

How do you feel about the Belmont plan?

“I don’t know enough about it.”

What was it like going from the Islanders to the Pittsburgh Penguins?

“It was interesting. They weren’t a great franchise when I got there, but great players like Mario Lemieux and Paul Coffey were great players. It turned out to be a hell of a team. Jaromir Jagr and Kevin Stevens were just young kids at the time and they helped grow the team into a power. I always have great reflection about that team because of how good they were. The 90’s was a real turning point for the organization. I give Bob Johnson a lot of credit for bringing Pittsburgh a Stanley Cup. When I look back, there was like six or seven future hall of fame guys on that team.”

Mike Bossy:

What was it like winning the Stanley Cups with the Islanders?

“We had a great team, great players, it was a lot of fun.”

What was it like having to retire at such a young age?

“I always say, it’s not the way I would’ve liked to end my career with an injury like that. I had ten good years and I’m grateful for that.”

What was it like playing for Al Arbour?

“It was special playing for Al. He was a great coach, a great man, and a great leader above all.”

What was it like being on the cover of Sports Illustrated?

“Honestly, I didn’t really thing anything of it. I was happy, but it didn’t change my life.”

What is your view of Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz?

“I really don’t have one. I wish them the best of luck with the Islanders and making them a winner, but I don’t really have an opinion of them right now. They both did great jobs with their former teams.”

Clark Gillies:

What was it like winning the Stanley Cups with the Islanders?

“Winning the Stanley Cup is the best thing if you’re a hockey player. To win it once was amazing, but going on to win it three more times was something really special. It was quadruple amazing. When a player starts in the NHL, their dream is to win the Stanley Cup.”

What was it like to play for Al Arbour?

“Al was great. He was a bit of a disciplinary, he made sure you did your job the right way. We always worked very hard for Al because if you didn’t work hard, you paid for it the next day at practice. Al was an amazing human being and a next coach.”

What type of effect did Bill Torrey have on your life?

“Bill Torrey was a mastermind at building great hockey teams and he did it with the Islanders and did it with the Florida Panthers. I have nothing but great respect for what Bill did. We’ll miss him, like we will with Al. He had a tremendous run and he’ll always be known as one of the greatest hockey architects.”

What was it like playing alongside Bobby Nystrom?

“Bobby and I had a great relationship. We were great friends and roommates. We both played the same role on the team, when someone got in trouble they paid the price for it. Bobby was a fierce competitor a great leader on that team. He made me better in a lot of situations and I will always adore the guy for what he did for me and the team.”

What was it like going up against Wayne Gretzky?

“Gretz was a great player. A difficult guy to play against, but our coaching staff created a great game plan to go against Wayne. We could shut him down unlike a lot of teams.”

What’s your perception of the new ownership group (Malkin and Ledecky), Lou Lamoriello, and Barry Trotz?

“From an ownership standpoint, Scott Malkin has made a great commitment and he’s committed to see this team succeed. I think the real leader in that ownership group is Jon Ledecky. I’ve never seen anyone work harder than Jon Ledecky in promoting the Islanders. The new management system with Lamoriello, he has a proven track record with what he did in New Jersey and Toronto. Barry Trotz had a lot of building in bringing the Washington Capitals to greatness and a Stanley Cup. I think Barry is gonna do a tremendous job with the Islanders.”

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