Even as a visitor, Eric Nystrom feels at home in Nassau Coliseum.
The Predators forward is the son of Islanders’ legend Bobby Nystrom, born into Islanders’ royalty in Syosset. For Eric, the Coliseum holds deep meaning, not just because of what his father accomplished there, but because his own hockey journey began on Hempstead Turnpike.
“I could barely even walk and I was out there on the ice with my sister,” Nystrom said. “I have so many great memories coming out here and skating as a kid. Early mornings my dad would come out and me and him would have the ice and skate with a million pucks.”
Nystrom was skating on Coliseum ice as early as three-years-old. He was too young to remember seeing his dad play live, but he’d watch and re-watch tapes of the Islanders’ dynasty on a daily basis after school. He’s seen them so many times he said he could recite the play-by-play calls.
But even as a young kid Nystrom could appreciate how important his dad was on Long Island, as Bobby couldn’t make it from the parking lot to the concourse without being mobbed by enamored fans.
“It’s the same now,” Nystrom said. “He’s so recognizable, everybody has such great things to say about him. That says a lot about what he did for Long Island and the Islanders. It’s amazing to know that’s my father.”
Every time I come in here, it’s a great memory and brings back a lot of good feelings. - Eric Nystrom
There was a mob waiting for Eric Thursday, as a massive gathering of reporters greeted Nystrom after the Predators’ morning skate. Nystrom was taken aback by the scrum, remarking that he didn’t think this story was this big. But his story is unique; he’s the only son of the dynasty to have an NHL career and while it’s common practice for fans to say they “grew up” at the Coliseum, Nystrom actually did.
He spent time here as a toddler all the way through his teens. He skated with Ryan Bowness – son of Rick Bowness, the Islanders’ coach in 1997-98 – before morning skates and reflected on what a privilege it was.
“We thought we were kings of the world,” Nystrom said.
The memories didn’t end there, as Nystrom scored in his Coliseum debut on March 25, 2010 as a member of the Calgary Flames. For Nystrom, it was a dream come true, scoring a goal on the same ice as his favorite players: Pat LaFonatine, Pierre Turgeon and of course, his dad, whose number hung above him in the rafters.
|Bobby Nystrom was honored by the Islanders on Dec. 6. |
“That was pretty special, it’s kind of like a storybook,” Nystrom said of the goal. “I had an entire section of family and friends. To be able to score was quite a thrill.”
If the Islanders and Predators don’t meet in the Stanley Cup Final, this is going to be his last lap around Mitchell Field, making Thursday a bittersweet occasion.
“It’s a little sad,” Nystrom said. “Knowing what the future holds and how this team is leaving Long Island, it’s a little disappointing.”
Eric took some time to let it all soak in. He greeted Butch Goring with a hug and posed for pictures with his dad next to Bobby Nystrom’s Hall of Fame plaque.
“Every time I come in here, it’s a great memory and brings back a lot of good feelings,” Nystrom said. “I’m happy to be back here.”