Every time Eric Nystrom plays in Nassau Coliseum, it brings back memories – a whole lot of them.
It’s where he learned how to skate as a kid. It’s where his father’s number hangs in the rafters. It’s where there is a “distinct smell,” as Nystrom put it.
“I just remember as a kid there would be that smell of the Coliseum, and every time I walk in there it reminds me of that,” he said. “A lot of good memories there.”
The Nashville Predators will play against the New York Islanders on Tuesday night, the sixth game of their marathon road trip spanning coast to coast. It promises to be yet another homecoming for Nystrom, who was born and raised in Syosset, N.Y., which is 15 miles north of Nassau Coliseum. He grew up there because of his father, Bob, who played 14 seasons with the Islanders and has his No. 23 retired by the team.
“I always tap one of the young guys and point up there: ‘See that? Do you even know who that is?’” Nystrom said of his dad’s number being in the rafters.
As a player who has spent his seven-year NHL career in the Western Conference, Nystrom has only played three games in the Coliseum. This particular trip back to Long Island may be more emotional, however.
“My parents actually just sold their place there, so this will probably be the last time I get to swing by my house I grew up in before they move out,” he said. “It’s a little emotional, but at the same time I get to see all my family and friends. Should be fun.”
Bob Nystrom was a beloved figure of the Islanders’ dynasty in the early 1980s when they won four consecutive Stanley Cups. The first of the four was won by none other than Bob Nystrom (nicknamed Mr. Islander) in sudden death overtime against Philadelphia in 1980. It’s the most famous goal in team history.
“Every time I see [the goal] I can do the radio call by heart,” Nystrom said. “It’s unreal. That’s my old man doing that.”
Nystrom continued, “We had this one VHS tape that was a summary of all four of the Cup championships. I watched it every single day after school – literally every single day when I was a kid. That was my favorite thing to do, to watch this Islanders dynasty tape. It was awesome.”
For obvious reasons, the Islanders were Nystrom’s favorite NHL team as a kid. Due to his father’s legacy with the team, the Nystrom name has a lot of history there. That being said, the 30-year-old son of Mr. Islander doesn’t in any way feel like he has ever been a part of the organization.
“That was my dad’s thing and I loved that team growing up, but when you become a professional and you put on your team’s jersey, that is where you feel the pride and are a part of that. Now Nashville is my thing,” he said, tugging on the Predators jersey he was wearing. “This jersey is my heart and soul, and the same goes for any other team I’ve played with. That’s your legacy.
“But I always enjoy going back [to Long Island] and skating against those colors and seeing that jersey.”