Bob Nystrom was an Islander. Playing his entire National Hockey League career on Long Island, he was loyal to the franchise that gave him his chance, on and off the ice.
A native of Stockholm, Sweden, Nystrom immigrated to Canada was he was four years old and picked up the game we come to love. After playing two seasons with the Calgary Centennials, the New York Islanders came calling in the form of the 1972 Entry Draft. Drafted in the 3rd round and selected 33rd overall, Nystrom was expected to be a rugged and aggressive winger to help the club. He started the 1972-1973 season in the American Hockey League with the New Haven Nighthawks before officially getting his crack with the big club in March 1973.
When his first full season came around, Nystrom was considered for the Calder Trophy but was looked over as the Rookie of the Year honor went to teammate Denis Potivin. The Islanders though as a team were becoming stronger and Nystrom with his aggressive style of play became one of the best players in the league. In his 900 games with the Islanders, Nystrom tallied 513 points. That wasn’t all he tallied though.
Nystrom amassed a total of 1248 penalty minutes over his 13 year career and he put them to good use too. He became one of the most respected fighters in the league.
And to think he was one of the last players to wear a helmet.
As the Islanders continued their push towards the Stanley Cup, Nystrom improved his play with power skating classes. Becoming better and faster on the ice proved necessary on May 24, 1980. The New York Islanders were facing the Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup Finals. As the game headed to sudden death overtime with the score notched at 4, the Islanders were pumped. At 7:11, John Tonelli came over the blue line on a two on one with Nystrom. After accepting a solid pass, Nystrom threw it into the back of the rest and the rest is history. The New York Islanders were Stanley Cup Champions. As we all know, this became the first of four.
Nystrom was also a champion off the ice. He contributed to various charities and helped out local businesses like no other player. He started to become known as “Mr. Islander” around the community. Nystrom’s last game was a special one. He had already amassed 899 games when he was approached by Al Arbor to play in one final match to make it an even 900. Nystrom agreed and took the opening faceoff, but that was it. Mr. Islander skated back to the bench and hung up his skates.
Bob Nystrom stayed along with the Islanders organization until the 2002 season. In 1995, the Islanders honored by retiring his number 23 even though they have let other players were it since then. As another tribute, the Islanders began hanging out the “Bob Nystrom” award in 1991. The award goes to the player “who best exemplifies leadership, hustle and dedication.” Matt Martin has accepted the award the past two seasons.
Although he is technically gone from the hockey world, Bob Nystrom still has an attachment. His son Eric, is a member of the Nashville Predators. Even though he might be popping in around Nashville from time to time, we know in our hearts that Bob “Thor”, “Mr. Islander” Nystrom is a Legend of Long Island.