Does it ever get old being asked to relive a moment in one’s life, even after 40 years and countless questions — and endless replays?
“No, no, it really doesn’t,” Bobby Nystrom said, smiling.
What was different on this day, though, was that Nystrom not only was reliving his Stanley Cup-winning goal for the Islanders on May 24, 1980, but recreating it alongside John Tonelli, who got the first assist on the play.
This was in late February at the rink at American Dream near MetLife Stadium, on a day between the number retirement ceremonies for Tonelli and Butch Goring.
The NHL Network commissioned the recreation for a virtual-reality video of the goal that it plans to premiere in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of the Islanders’ first of four consecutive Cups.
It will premiere on a one-hour special edition of “NHL Tonight” at 7 p.m. on Sunday, part of a day-long celebration of the Islanders’ anniversary on the channel.
Director Michael Furno used a Samsung 360-degree camera with 17 lenses to capture Nystrom, 67, and Tonelli, 63, with NHL Network’s E.J. Hradek portraying other players — including Flyers — who were involved in the sequence.
MLB Network, which shares facilities with the NHL Network, has used the same technology for baseball virtual reality videos, including Derek Jeter’s “flip” play against the Athletics in the 2001 ALDS.
When it was over, Nystrom said, “I’ve relived it. I’ve seen it a thousand times. It would have been great to go a little faster and do it, but I’m not sure I would have been able to. This really brings it home.”
Said Tonelli, “I was hoping I would be able to perform and execute out there. I think I got by because we were going pretty slow.”
The Islanders had suffered a series of playoff disappointments before they finally broke through in 1980. They held a three-games-to-two lead over the Flyers in the Stanley Cup Final, with a chance to wrap it up in Game 6 on a steamy afternoon at Nassau Coliseum.
The Flyers trailed 4-2 entering the third period but tied it to force overtime. Nystrom carved a notch into his stick during the intermission, envisioning that he would score the game-winner.
Then Lorne Henning passed to Tonelli, who found Nystrom streaking toward the goal, and he redirected it past goaltender Pete Peeters for the game-winner at 7:11 of OT.
Nystrom and Tonelli said it was a play the team had worked on repeatedly in practice during the season.
“[Coach] Al Arbour used to stress: 'You play as you practice, play as you practice,' ” Nystrom said. “We practiced and practiced, and you know what? Even if it only worked once, what a time for it to work!”
Said Tonelli, “It certainly is a special moment that I’ll always treasure in my life. I relive it all the time. I think about it more analytically now because the way it happened is something that we practiced all the time.
“Why did it happen in a game? Nobody knows.”
At that moment, no one knew it was the start of a historic run. Given what we know now, does that 1980 goal still represent the high point for the players most associated with it?
“I can say this: Winning it for the first time was the best feeling that could ever happen to us, to a hockey player,” Tonelli said. “It’s a gift to play in the NHL, and to win the Stanley Cup the first time was phenomenal.
“But to be able to repeat it and do it again and do it four times? You know what? It’s monstrous for us to be able to do it.”
Said Nystrom, “I don’t think that anyone ever is going to accomplish winning four, whether it’s baseball, football, anything. I don’t think anyone’s going to accomplish that again.”
Nystrom and Tonelli are among the eight players — out of 16 who won all four Cups — to have their jerseys raised to the rafters at the Coliseum.
They praised the current ownership group for reconnecting with the alumni, who in turn continue to reconnect with one another.
“Every time I get to see Bobby Ny or Clark Gillies, Billy Smith, Denis Potvin, there’s a special bond that we’ll always share, and that’s being in that dressing room on that team,” Tonelli said.
“It was a privilege and a gift to be a part of that team. Every time we see each other, we’re laughing, we’re making fun of each other and telling the same stories.”
But the alumni are rooting for new stories, specifically one that involves the current generation winning a fifth Cup for the franchise.
“I have so much pride watching our young Islanders play,” Tonelli said. “I keep using the word ‘gift,’ but it’s a gift to be a New York Islander and play at the Nassau Coliseum and I’m cheering big time for them to feel the feeling that we felt, because there’s nothing like it as a hockey player.”
Said Nystrom, “I’d love that. We lived our life. God, I’d love to see them win. It’s something that you want to share with guys that are playing on the same team that you won it with.”