Bobby Nystrom has told the story of scoring the Cup-clinching goal against the Philadelphia Flyers countless times, but he offered a little extra tidbit on Saturday afternoon at Nassau Coliseum. Between the third period and overtime, Nystrom took a scalpel out of the trainer’s room and carved a notch into this stick, telling himself he was going to score the most important goal in Islanders history.
“What I tell people is to be put in that position is incredible,” Nystrom said. “We all thought we would be the hero. So I always am thankful that I was put in that position. It was the best moment, but there were many moments.”
Nystrom had a smile on he recanted his memories as an Islander. He was only 30 feet from the room where he carved the notch into his stick and not much further from the spot on the ice where he deflected John Tonelli’s feed past Pete Peters. But being summoned back to the Coliseum was bittersweet for Mr. Islander, who was being honored as part of the long goodbye to the arena.
“It’s heartbreaking to me to see it happen,” he said. “It’s a great building. It’s had its time and I certainly understand that it has to be refurbished, but for me there are just tremendous memories here.”
Nystrom’s memories extend beyond the Coliseum. He spent his entire 14-year career on Long Island, embracing the community as much as it embraced him. He spoke to the impact Long Island – and the true Islanders – had on him.
“Most of us came from small towns, so we really identified with the community,” Nystrom said. “We used to watch people walk into the building and be like, ‘there’s Rob and Lyla, Eddie and Susan.’ We just had that kind of a relationship. Probably the best thing of all was we didn't have that mystique about us, we weren’t secluded. We were out in public, loved being in restaurants and interacting with the folks here. That's why it was special, the guys weren’t aloof or distant, they were out there, mingling with the regular folk.”
He offered up more memories and answered questions during a Q and A session with the media. His favorite cup? The fourth. The most under-appreciated member of the dynasty? Ken Morrow. The immediate on-ice reaction to winning the Cup? Thank goodness the playoffs are over.
“As much as you think your first thought is 'yay,' it’s 'thank god its over,'” he said. “I have so much respect for the players now because the game is so much faster and harder.”
Nystrom likes what he’s seeing from this year’s team, which is off to a 19-8 start and a 10-3 record at the Coliseum. Playing high-level hockey in front of a packed barn makes the sendoff a little easier.
“I think they have the makings,” Nystrom said. “They move the puck as well as anybody in this league. I can honestly say there isn’t any building in this league… when this place is packed and this crowd is going, that’s as loud as this building.”
Speaking to the atmosphere in the Coliseum took him back to warmups on May 24, 1980, three periods before carving his stick and scoring the goal. The ovation the crowd gave the Islanders before the game nearly brought the tough guy to tears.
“That’s how loud it was,” he said.
Thirty-four years later, Nystrom still has the memories. And the scalpel too.