July 13, 2013

Bobby Nystrom

The story of this Swedish born hockey player of the 1970s and early 1980s is not your typical Swedish hockey player story.

Born on October 10, 1952 in Stockholm Sweden, Nystrom moved with his family to Hinton, Alberta at the age of nine, and later to Kamloops, British Columbia. He grew up playing "Canadian hockey." He was a hustler and a grinder who made it to the junior leagues with the Calgary Centennials.

Drafted by the New York Islanders 33rd overall in 1972, Nystrom was anything but the stereotypical Swede. He was Canadian through and through, and it showed on the ice. He was a physically dominant forward, a masterful bodychecker and a knockout fighter when need be. He had good puck skills as well, particularly his accurate wrist shot, but was a poor skater. It took a year of power skating lessons before Nystrom gradually improved to an acceptable level of skating by NHL standards.

After an 11 game stint in 1972-73, Nystrom made the Isles roster permanently in 1973-74. He scored 20 goals and had 118 PIM as he instantly became a Long Island fan favorite due to his hard work in the corners, along the boards and in glove-dropping scrums.

Nystrom was a consistent goal scorer as well. His 20 goal rookie season was the first of seven 20+ goal seasons, and the first of 5 in a row. His best year was in 1977-78 when he scored 30 times and added 29 assists for 59 points. He was even selected to the play in the 1977 All Star game

Bob arrived in New York in the early 1970s and was an integral part of a young team on the rise. Nystrom helped the Isles slowly progress into Stanley Cup champs. Much of the mid to late 1970s was filled with their rise to contender-hood and then followed by disappointing setbacks. That of course must have made the Isle's 4 year strangle-hold on the Cup even more sweeter for Nystrom.

Every Stanley Cup dynasty is magical, and the Islanders were perhaps the most incredible. The one image that perhaps remains strongest of that incredible team was the overtime goal in the Finals against the Philadelphia Flyers that earned the Islanders their first Stanley Cup. That goal was scored by no other than Bob Nystrom. With Jim Robson's incredible play by play call and the dramatics involved in the overtime goal, that footage ranks high on the all time greatest goal list.

Nystrom was a warrior in the playoffs - a fearless banger who did anything to help the team win. The ultimate team player, Nystrom was a huge part of those Islander championships. While he never reached the acclaim of Bossy, Trottier, Potvin or Smith, there is little doubt that his impact on that team was immeasurable.

Nystrom retired in 1986 after a couple of injury plagued seasons. After retiring his number 23 high to the rafters of Nassau Colliseum. He was the first dynasty Islander to be so honored, and was later joined by Potvin, Bossy, Smith, Trottier and Gillies.

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