Memories of Guy Lafleur and Mike Bossy

I, like the rest of the hockey world, was devastated to learn of the deaths of Guy Lafleur and Mike Bossy this week. Two excellent individuals and two of the finest goal scorers I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching at work on the ice.

On April 6, 1980, I played my final NHL game for the Quebec Nordiques against Lafleur’s Montreal Canadiens. However, it is not shown in my career games played log. That’s because I dressed for the game but sat the entire night on the bench. Jacques Demers urged me to go out for the final faceoff with six seconds left in the third quarter.

Cat, it’s excellent for your pension. Go outside, “Demers said. I wish I could, but I can’t. I’ve already removed my skates “I responded. The game was tied 4-4 at the finish. The Flower assisted on a goal by Mark Napier. We came back from 3-0 and 4-3 deficits, with Real Cloutier’s 42nd goal of the season tying the game late in the third quarter.

I ran met Guy again at a motel in Los Angeles. When Lafleur stepped in, smoking a cigarette and clutching a six-pack of beer, I was resting in the whirlpool. We spoke and had a few beers together. By the time he returned from a three-year retirement to join the New York Rangers in 1988-89, I had moved to the opposite side of the game and was an NHL referee. When I reffed his game for the first time as a Ranger, I believe it was his first or second game.

Guy was a chatty, good-natured individual. You could tease him and he’d return the favor.

Guy had either undergone a hair transplant or was wearing a toupee, I wasn’t sure, but he had a lot more hair on his head than the last time I saw him.

“Did that item get glued on?” I inquired. “You don’t want it to fly away as fast as you skate.”

In an instance of things going full circle, I was the referee for Guy’s final NHL game in 1991. He was playing for my previous team, the Quebec Nordiques, at the time. The Flower earned the longest and loudest standing ovation I had ever heard. He was also applauded whenever he leapt over the boards or touched the puck.

When I was playing for Quebec, I had the opportunity to play (yes, I got into that game) against Mike Bossy’s Islanders on March 30, 1980. Let it be known that I scored my second and final NHL goal that night. “Boss” did not score a goal that night, but he did have an assist, and the Islanders won.

The thing about Boss is that, as impressive as his scoring totals (573 goals) and total points (1,126) were, when you consider that his career was cut short at the age of 30 and he only played 752 career NHL regular season games, it becomes clear that he was truly in the top tier of NHL goal scorers. He and Lafleur both had excellent shot releases.

I once asked Mike how he could score goals with such remarkable accuracy time after time. He always seems to hit the twine. He said, “I never shoot for a certain location. I can see the net and simply shot to put it there.

That explains why Boss seldom shot over or wide of the net. When he shot, pucks didn’t careen off the boards and rim out too often. In my situation, I didn’t shoot for a location since I couldn’t hit it even if I tried. I was content if the goalkeeper had to make a save. The two that came through for me in the WHA and NHL were a huge plus.

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