Hearing what isn't said...Encouragement and Empathy



Daughter of Mike Bossy

Although I am a grown woman, I remain my father’s little girl. No matter how old I am, he is always there to listen to me and understand my needs. Underneath all of his protective pads, gear and helmet is a man that my grandmother called son, my mother calls husband and his fans call “The Boss.” I call him Dad.

My father is best known for being one of the only non-violent players in a violent sport. He epitomized true sportsmanship in the National Hockey League playing for the New York Islanders. It’s funny, but my father never taught me how to play hockey or even to shoot pucks into a goal. But he taught me so many far more important skills. Just as he demonstrated sportsmanship, patience and perseverance on the ice, my father taught the value of determination, fairness and sensitivity at home, and, he always listened.

One of my most vivid memories of how my truly listened to me and was sensitive to my needs was when I was twelve years old. I had signed up to ride a 25-mile bike tour for a local charity. The morning of the bike tour, my dad and I were having breakfast in our kitchen before getting ready to head over to the starting point. I was trying to eat my energizing and nutritious breakfast he had made for me of eggs, toast and juice. But the toast kept getting stuck in the lump of nervousness that had developed in my throat. I finally blurted out, “I can’t do it Dad! I can’t ride so many miles and I certainly can’t do it alone.” Well, these were words that my father just couldn’t understand. He didn’t get to be a top professional athlete by thinking he couldn’t do something. So, he tried by saying, “Of course you can do it, Tanya,” he said, “You can do anything if you just set your mind to it.” By my silence, he understood that I might need more than just these words of encouragement. So he added words that made me feel he really understood me and immediately put me at ease. He said the few words that I needed to hear, “I will ride along with you.”

I was so relieved but then had the sudden realization that he didn’t own a bike! When I told him of that minor detail, he of course said, “No problem. I’m sure we can find one for me in the garage.” Yes, we found a bicycle in the garage. The only problem was that it was my sister’s purple and pink princess bicycle with streamers dangling from the handlebars! I was now really ready to give up on the whole thing when my father said, “Now we will be able to ride at the same speed.”

The sensitivity my father had for me that day is a lesson that I will carry forever. Rather than get frustrated or impatient with my fear over doing the bike tour, he truly listened to me, teaching me by example how sensitivity is so important in life. I will always remember that day and will forever have the image etched in my mind of my six foot, 190 pound father riding twenty five miles on his daughter’s little purple and pink princess bicycle with streamers. The hardest part of completing the bicycle tour was simply trying to pedal while having fits of giggles the whole way.

Mike Bossy began his 10-year hockey career with the New York Islanders. The “Boss” was an integral part of the New York Islanders’ dynasty that culminated in 4 consecutive Stanley Cups between 1980 and 1983. His sportsmanlike conduct earned him 3 Lady Byng trophies as the League’s most gentlemanly player. In 1991, Bossy was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Mike is married to Lucie and is the proud father of Josiane and Tanya.

Tanya Bossy, age 37, lived in Long Island, New York until age six when she moved back to Canada after her father’s retirement from professional hockey. Tanya obtained her Master’s degree in neuroscience from McGill University. Her thesis focused on neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline. She currently works in health care administration. She is the mother of two wonderfull girls, Alexe 10 and Gabrielle 7.