“A gift” is how the legendary right wingman for the dynasty that was the New York Islanders from 1980 to 1983 still refers to his opportunity to play in the NHL and for the organization. But for all Islander fans, it is was “his gift” at 7:11 of the memorable game 6 overtime period on May 24, 1980 at the Nassau Coliseum that defeated the Philadelphia Flyers to give the New York Islanders their first of four consecutive tastes from Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Some thirty years later, what has been dubbed “The Goal,” still remains a close memory for “Mr. Islander.” “It seemed like yesterday actually. It was just something we did in practice over and over and over again,” said Mr. Bob Nystrom attributing the credit to Coach Al Arbour. "Al used to always want to make us do two-on-twos," added Nystrom. Unfortunately for Mel Bridgman, number 23 could only attribute his two fists to the Flyer center’s face as the two “didn’t exactly see eye to eye,” laughs Nystrom. The ferocious fighter was always more than ready to trade shots with his opponents especially when facing the rival New York Rangers. “The families were split. The kids were Islander fans. The parents were Ranger fans. The intensity of the crowds was incredible,” recalls Nystrom.
With overwhelming gratification for the support of the fans and his strong sense of Islander of pride, it’s no wonder why the team-first oriented Nystrom earned the moniker “Mr. Islander.” Something which he still embodies today via his work with the Clark Gillies Foundation, Pat LaFontaine’s Companions and Courage Foundation and the Marty Lyons Foundation. “That’s something that Al Arbour instilled in us. Those are our fans out there, and this is where we lived, and this is where we played. You got to take care of the community that you’re in,” passionately states the proud father of his son Eric who performed his own “charitable effort” as a Calgary Flame which Nystrom chuckles “that was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.” And fortunately Bob was able to see that moment after a practice incident had injured his retina, as he recalls taking his final face-off on April 5, 1986 for an even 900 career games as being “so nervous, I couldn’t hardly even spit!”
The post-hockey successful businessman clearly still takes great pride and purpose in the sport of hockey and harbors the important sense of connection the NHL most maintain for its fans. “The fans cannot afford to pay an infinite amount. There has to be certain controls or otherwise it will be prohibitive for them to buy tickets,” Nystrom spoke in reference to the league’s rejection of Ilya Kovalchuk’s 17 year $102 million deal.
So thirty years later after scoring “The Goal,” the four-time Stanley Cup Champion remains active setting “goals” now scaling some of the world’s highest mountains. “It’s all about setting goals and testing yourself,” said Bob. And having now stood atop the world’s highest mountain as well as at the top of the hockey world, Bob Nystrom’s view couldn’t be clearer for the Islanders, the sport, and the fans. Even Flyer fans may find some solace in Bob’s revealing honest “re-view” of the hotly contested “behind-the-blue line “ pass from Gillies to Goring that Philadelphians decried was the reason for “The Goal”!