When Bobby Nystrom scored at 7:11 of overtime on May 24th, 1980 to give the Islanders their first Stanley Cup, it set off quite the celebration at Nassau Coliseum. Nystrom was mobbed by his teammates after John Tonelli set him up with a great pass to beat the Flyers 5-4 in game six and when the celebration made its way to the dressing room, the jersey that Nystrom wore that day came off the back of number 23, presumably for the final time.
Given where the sports memorabilia business is today, had that great moment in Islanders history occurred more recently, it’s very possible that the jersey would have been sent off to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, perhaps Nystrom would have wanted to keep it, or it may have been secured by the Islanders to possibly display in their new home UBS Arena at Belmont Park when it opens for the 2021-22 season.
So, just take a guess as to who is in possession of that jersey today.
The Hockey Hall of Fame?
How about none of the above.
Perhaps the greatest piece of memorabilia in Islanders history, other than the four Stanley Cups themselves, is in the possession of die-hard Islanders fan Barry Rosen. Currently residing in the Bronx, Rosen grew up a huge Islanders fan in Roslyn on Long Island and graduated from Roslyn High School.
Rosen acquired the jersey on August 2nd, 2013 when he won an auction that was based in Chicago. He decided he was going to go all out to come away with what he calls “The Holy Grail” of Islanders memorabilia.
“I was determined to win it but doubted I’d have the monetary wherewithal to pull it off but decided I’d give it my best shot,” said Rosen, an avid collector of game-used sports jerseys.
There were a couple of layers to the auction. One part of it took place on the internet and there was also in-person participation. Rosen won the internet bidding but he was only halfway home at that point. He placed his maximum bid and then listened to the auction online while others were bidding, in-person, in Chicago. The lifelong Islanders fan had to sweat it out as the other bids were approaching his maximum bid.
“It reached the point when the next bid was going to take it away from me,” recalled Rosen. “The auctioneer said “going once, going twice” and I held my breath when he said “sold”. I recall jumping around like a schoolgirl in my kitchen as all of my hockey experiences with my dad came rushing back to me. It was a transformative moment for sure.”
(The jersey Bobby Nystrom wore on May 24th, 1980)
Think about it.
The jersey that Bobby Nystrom was wearing on May 24th, 1980 is not in possession of him, the Islanders or the Hall of Fame.
Barry Rosen has it in his collection.
“Owning the singular most famous piece of Islander memorabilia is odd I’ll admit,” said Rosen. “But I came to obtain it fair and square. Anyone could have plunked down the greenbacks at the time and almost did.”
Rosen grew up a huge hockey fan, mainly because his father was a big hockey fan. His dad took him to his first game when he was six and that was a Long Island Ducks game. Rosen’s father was actually a Rangers fan but was very excited when the Islanders began play in 1972 and bought two season tickets. Those seats, located in section 321 row E seats 13 and 14 of Nassau Coliseum, were in Rosen’s family until 1988 and then four years later, he became a season ticket holder himself buying tickets for his family
He loves the Islanders but he also loves to collect game-used jerseys and has about 750 in his collection. He started collecting hockey team jerseys in the early 1990’s focusing his attention on authentic minor and junior jerseys.
(AHL All-Star jersey worn by Casey Cizikas in 2012)
Many times, he would wear the jerseys to Islanders games at the Coliseum.
“I loved the double-takes fans would give me as I strode by,” recalled Rosen. “They’d see the jersey and you could tell they were trying to identify it but couldn’t, the puzzled looks were priceless.”
And then, sometime in the late 1990’s, someone brought to Rosen’s attention that an actual game-used jersey was “cooler” than “authentic” because they had evidence of the battles on the ice.
“That was my jumping off point,” said Rosen who sells insurance for a living. “I started where I’d left off with junior jerseys then gradually graduated to pro. Being an Islanders fan, I focused on Isles sweaters also.”
Rosen doesn’t remember the first game-used jersey in his collection but he certainly has his favorites, in addition to the Nystrom Stanley Cup jersey, including Gerry Desjardins, Bryan Trottier, Dave Langevin, John Tonelli, Butch Goring, and first year Islander Craig Cameron.
(Craig Cameron’s Islanders jersey from 1972-73)
“With each of those I can relate to a specific time of my life,” said Rosen. “They’re like music to other people.”
His collection isn’t limited to just hockey as Rosen also has a Dellin Betances Yankees jersey (when he wore 61), some Giants football jerseys, as well as a Ricky Davis jersey from the original New York Cosmos soccer club. But hockey is his bread and butter and he’s found a way to share his collection with other people.
Rosen has been sharing photos of his jersey collection on Twitter and he has a modest following of his account (@BarryLI) of almost 300. He loves the old jerseys, but Rosen also has shared photos of jerseys from his collection that were worn by current Islanders including Anthony Beauvillier, Cal Clutterbuck, and Mat Barzal.
(Mat Barzal jersey from 2017-18)
I’ve joked with him that he should have a museum to display the jerseys, but he’s just fine with sharing his collection on social media.
“I can post up a jersey a day,” said Rosen. “Each is a piece of hockey history and I enjoy sharing with fellow hockey fans. If they’re Isles fans, so much the better.”
Collecting sports memorabilia is a fun hobby and it can also be an expensive one. I’m fortunate to have what I think is a pretty cool collection that includes a good number of jerseys, not anywhere near Rosen’s world but I’m proud of it. I’m also happy to have two boys who like to collect sports memorabilia and a very understanding wife who has encouraged me to display some of my items around the house. I have friends that bust my chops over things in my collection so I had to ask Rosen a very important question…
What does his family and friends think about his “hobby”?
“My hockey friends think the collection is cool but my kids think I’m an idiot,” said Rosen. “The only thing that really matters is what I think, right?”
I couldn’t agree more. If you have the conviction, and the financial means to make it happen, then a hobby is a hobby. You go out there and you enjoy it and take care of it like Rosen has done with his jerseys.
Now let’s get back to that Bobby Nystrom jersey that Rosen proudly owns.
He has never met the man who scored the most famous goal in Islanders history and whose historic jersey that he proudly owns. He has no idea if Nystrom knows the whereabouts of the jersey or if he even cares, but Rosen would welcome the opportunity to meet him and show Nystrom the jersey.
“I would have no qualms about having Bobby pose with the jersey of course,” said Rosen. “It would be my pleasure.”
Barry Rosen is a great family man and also a passionate Islanders fan so he is certainly enjoying this playoff run that the Isles are on. But he also takes great pride in his game-used jersey collection and his daily posts are a must-see to check out the amazing jerseys that he has obtained.
But how cool would it be to have Rosen meet Bobby Nystrom, show him the jersey, and have a Kodak moment that would turn Isles Twitter upside down?