SUN Hockey Pool

Nystrom Longs to play Islanders

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

Eric Nystrom's NHL dreams years ago involved actually playing for the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

It's his hometown team and the club his father played for his whole NHL career and won four Stanley Cup titles with, so that dream is understandable.

Tonight, though, the Calgary Flames rookie left-winger will live the next best thing when he squares off against the Isles at the Saddledome.

"It's exciting," said the beaming Nystrom after yesterday's practice. "It's a little far from home. It'd be nice to play a game there, but this is great. I have a strong name back there with my father playing so long, and I guess it's cool to have a second generation in the NHL."

Long Island hockey fans who'll tune into tonight's affair will certainly have extra interest in the game. After all, seeing a Nystrom with No. 23 stitched on his back conjures up plenty of memories for the New York faithful.

Bob Nystrom -- funny how life's gone full circle -- is an Alberta boy who played junior in Calgary and pro in New York. His son learned the game in New York and plays pro in Calgary. Bob was a fan favourite for his rambunctious style, And oh yeah, that overtime, Stanley Cup-winning goal in 1980 put him in the history books in a big way.

Eric Nystrom isn't his father, but there are some similar characteristics.

"I never watched him and said, 'This is the type of player I want to be.' I always wanted to be a 50-goal scorer, but we can't all be that," Eric said. "But I just worked hard -- he's always been the guy to push me to work hard and have a great work ethic -- and it's one of the big reasons I'm here.

"I think they'll see the same kinda guy running around out there and flying into people."

However, there aren't many similarities after that. Dad made the jump from the minors and was a rookie-of-the year candidate with 21 goals and 41 points.

Eric's journey, despite being a first-round draft choice, took longer. It took a couple of call-ups early this season for him to find a niche.


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