25 Years Later - The Goal That Shook Long Island
May 24th, 1980. Just a week after the Grateful Dead had played three sold out shows at Nassau
Coliseum, one of hockey's longest and strangest trips began as the Islanders captured the first of four
consecutive Stanley Cup Championships.
The little team from Long Island, who almost went bankrupt years before, went on to form a dynasty
equal to any in any other sport in sports history. And it started with a goal from perhaps one of the most
humble yet deserving players in New York hockey history, Bobby Nystrom.
Nystrom's redirection of a John Tonelli pass, on a play that started with a great backcheck from Lorne
Henning (who intercepted the pass that sent the Islanders into transition), began something that has
transformed hockey on Long Island. While that goal sent all of us little Islanders' fans into a frenzy, it
also started what became a boom of youth hockey on Long Island.
Because of that goal, and that team, young kids put down their baseball gloves and picked up hockey
sticks. More kids played, and more kids succeeded. Thanks to the efforts of a lot of the players on
those dynasty teams who stayed and settled on Long Island after their glory days were done, the level of
play here has produced a number of Division I NCAA hockey players, and some professionals.
Nystrom has been a visible member of LI youth hockey, and his son Eric (a first round draft pick of the
Calgary Flames) just completed a great four year career at the University of Michigan. Players like Gerry
Hart, Richie Hansen, John Tonelli, Lorne Henning, Jean Potvin, Wayne Merrick and Ed Westfall are
some who have contributed to the growth of the sport on LI.
Those efforts have helped programs like the Royals, Gulls, Bobcats, Junior Islanders, Suffolk PAL,
Apple Core, and Nassau County develop programs that have produced Division I players like Ryan
Vesce (Cornell), Tom Galvin (Notre Dame), Mark Eaton (Notre Dame), Kenny Turano (Harvard), Bobby
Gepfort and Joe Grimaldi (Nebraska-Omaha), Marty Hughes (BC), Kevin Schaeffer (BU), Scott Birnstill
(Northeastern), James Brannigan (Colorado College), Mike Brennan (BC), and Vin Hellmeyer (Yale) just
to name a few.
Cornell coach Mike Schaffer said to me last season that he never thought ten years ago when he took
over at Cornell that he'd have a team captain hail from LI. "I'd have told you that you were crazy" he said.
Just last week, another Long Island kid just committed to the Big Red after a youth hockey career with
the Royals, PAL and Bobcats.
While that goal still brings a chill and gets the goose bumps going, what it is has meant 25 years later
goes beyond what anyone could have imagined in the grand history of the NHL, or the recent history of
hockey here on Long Island.