Thore Robert “Bob” Nystrom (born October 10, 1952 in Stockholm, Sweden), is a retired professional ice hockey right-winger. He played for the New York Islanders from 1972 to 1986.
Born Thore Robert Nyström in Stockholm, Sweden, Nystrom came to Canada as a four-year-old and starred for the BCJHL’s Kamloops Rockets in 1969–70. He was an emotional sparkplug on the Calgary Centennials of the WCJHL for two seasons and was claimed 33rd overall by the Islanders in 1972. He played half a season for minor league affiliate New Haven Nighthawks of the American Hockey league before being promoted to the Islanders in March 1973.
Nystrom’s first full season with the Islanders was 1973–74, where he tallied 41 points as a rookie, garnering Calder Trophy consideration as Rookie of the Year (the award eventually went to teammate Denis Potvin).
Over the next four seasons, as the Islander team improved, Nystrom became one of the steadiest two way forwards in the league. In each his first five seasons he collected over 20 goals, including a career high 30 in 1977-78, while playing a strong checking and defensive game as well. He was also selected to play in the 1977 NHL All-Star Game.
Nystrom was one of the hardest working, if not most talented, members of the New York Islanders, who were quickly becoming one of the most feared and respected clubs in the NHL. Although Nystrom, who was nicknamed “Thor” by his teammates, had developed into a very skilled and respected fighter with a physical edge to his game, Nystrom took it upon himself to improve his skating ability. He regularly took power skating classes, and in time, became a fairly fluid skater with strong hockey instincts.
As with many of the Islanders of the early 1980s, those instincts seemed to be more in tune when the playoffs rolled around. Nystrom has been known as one of the all-time clutch players in NHL Stanley Cup playoff history. He tallied 39 goals and 83 points in 157 playoff games; however he is most noted for his knack for sudden death overtime winners. Nystrom ended playoff overtime games four times in his career, a mark surpassed only by Maurice Richard’s six overtime winners.
On May 24, 1980, in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Philadelphia Flyers, Nystrom scored the game winner at 7:11 of overtime on national television throughout the United States to secure the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Nystrom embraced the Long Island community like few others, contributing to various charities in the area and promoting the local businesses whenever possible. By virtue of these distinctions, and coupled with the most famous goal in team history, Nystrom was nicknamed “Mr. Islander.”
Nystrom continued to be an effective winger through the Islander’s Stanley Cup run, but by 1985, his rugged, aggressive play began to wear his body down. He played only 36 games in 1984–85, managing only two goals, though he matched that total in only ten postseason games.
After playing sparingly through the first three months of the 1985–86 season, Nystrom was accidentally struck in the eye by a high stick from teammate Gerald Diduck in practice on January 5. Unable to play due to the severity of the injury (he suffered two tears of the retina, which later required surgery), he was thought to have retired, and he served as an assistant coach for the remainder of the season.
Nystrom had played in 899 regular season games at the time. Islander’s coach, Al Arbour, who considered Nystrom one of his favorites, approached Nystrom prior to the Islander’s last home game of the 1985–86 season on April 5, and asked him if he would like to dress one more game, in order to make it an even 900 games played; more importantly, it would give Islander fans a chance to say a proper good-bye. Nystrom accepted, and was added to the starting lineup. He took the opening face-off to a surprised and appreciative home crowd’s roar. After skating around for about five seconds, he returned to the bench, never to play again.
Nystrom remained an assistant coach the next two seasons, then served as radio analyst for the Islanders. He was named Islanders Director of Corporate Affairs in 1988 and remained in that position through 1988–89 season, when he took a position as Islanders Director of Special Projects in 1989 and remained in that position through 1990–91 season. He was named Islanders Director of Community Relations in 1991 and Director of Amateur Hockey Development & Alumni Relations in 1992. In 1997, he added the title Director of Corporate Relations and remained in that position through 2001–02 season.
The Islanders retired his No. 23 on April 1, 1995, although three other players had worn it after Nystrom.
Nystrom has a son Eric, who was drafted by the Calgary Flames as the number ten pick in the first round of the 2002 NHL Draft.
In 2003, he was inducted into the Nassau County Sports Hall of Fame.
In 1991, the Islanders began presenting the Bob Nystrom Award to the player on the team “who best exemplifies leadership, hustle and dedication.”