A series where I post some thoughts about favorite cards. Previous cards in the series are available here.
I grew up in the mid-1980s as a baseball-loving kid. When I wasn't in school or doing homework, you could often find me on a ball field. If not that, I'd be sorting baseball cards, or watching a game on TV, or studying how to improve my skills. (Anyone remember The Baseball Bunch videos?)
However, in the very late 1980s I met a new friend at school. He was the youngest of many siblings, and all his brothers played ice hockey and roller hockey. Whenever I went over his house we'd end up playing Blades of Steel on the NES in his basement, surrounded by bags of hockey equipment and sticks lined up against the wood-paneled walls. Gradually, he and his brothers introduced me to the sport.
Although I still loved baseball, I was also soaking up all the hockey knowledge I could. Fast-forward just a few months, and I'd convinced my mom that I liked the sport enough to want to play with it my new friend and some other neighborhood kids. Eventually I had a pair of rollerblades on my feet and a hockey stick in my hands, and I was out in the street or at the local park, skating around.
Add another year or so of effort and desire on my part, and my dad had seen enough to fit me with all the necessary ice hockey gear. Soon after that I was attending a summer instructional camp at a nearby rink to prepare me for league play.
And since this rink was on Long Island, the organizers of the camp would occasionally invite a current or former New York Islander to attend a session or two, and give some specialized instruction and advice.
One of those players was this guy:
Bob Nystrom played his entire 14-year career with the Islanders, was heart and soul of the team throughout their dynasty years, and scored one of the most memorable goals in team history. Case in point? His nickname was "Mr. Islander".
Here's that memorable goal:
Although I was much too young to remember that goal (or any of the dynasty years), having grown up on Long Island I sure heard about them. After all, the early 1990s were just a few years removed from those great teams and from Nystrom's retirement. So when Mr. Islander came to the camp that summer, it was a big treat.
And as you can see on the card above, he always stuck around after camp ended for the day to sign autographs and talk to parents. I'm happy to still have the card after all these years.
For all the memories of those early hockey-playing days that this card conjures up, plus a pretty sharp-looking autograph, 1985-86 Topps #11 has a spot in my box of favorite cards.