ERIC NYSTROM | Former Professional Hockey Player on the NHL, Masculinity + the Power of Positive Thinking | Pod No. 23
“Everything in my life — everything that I’ve really wanted and visually seen happening, it really did come true. I could say the same thing about the other side. Everything that came in negatively in my mind those things came true.
Its all about thinking positive, having the right mindset and having goals. Knowing what you want. What are the steps to get there? If you keep your eyes on what you’re trying to accomplish you can get there. There are going to be hurdles. Its the nature of the beast. Nothing is going to get handed to you. If you have a goal and you want it bad enough—you can literally have it. But if you let that negativity creep into your mind and have that doubt in your head, you’re going to have a hard time reaching that goal. It’s really about believing. It’s 100% the truth, from my experience.
The mind’s a powerful thing. You have to control it in the right direction because it really can negatively affect you.”
HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW.
I pride myself in having a good judge of character. I can suss out someone's authenticity and genuine, sincere nature immediately, and ulterior motives even quicker. It's part of the fight-or-flight nature Eric talks about in the podcast. Some of us have it fine-tuned better than others. The latter isn't an excuse to let the mishaps slide. At the end of the day, we're all a product of our imagination. What we think and believe, becomes. I didn't know Eric's mindset and way of thinking when we first met, but I could sense a genuine care for humanity. That was enough to spark a friendship which eventually led to us sitting down to record this conversation.
He is (best-known) as the son of Hockey Legend and Mr. Islander, Bob Nystrom. I, too, share this honor. Being seen, first, for our last name prior to us developing as individuals.
“Of course being the son of a former Islander and Stanley Cup Champion, I lived it my whole life. I was stuck with that sigma. People are gonna say I made it because of my last name but what NHL manager is gonna draft a player just because of a last name when they’re trying to win a Stanley Cup? You know what I mean? It’s just one of those stupid things I had to face. The, ”he’s doing this because of his dad, Bob.“ People who think that, they’re just ignorant. They want to make an excuse because people don't like seeing others being successful. That’s the type of world we live in. And it’s sad.”
The difference between Eric and I is that he didn't let that define him. He wore his last name with pride and continued his life in stride, laser-focusing on his own love for the game of hockey, playing because he loved it not because of his pursuit to reach a particular destination.
“I was totally committed to the game. And I think that was a big reason why I ended up making it and it was because I dialed in on it. I wanted it so bad. And it wasn’t that I set the goal— hey I need to play in the NHL. I just loved the game so much that I worked hard and that opened doors. I just wanted to win, I wanted to play. And I played with passion.“
What I find particularly refreshing about Eric is that he's not your typical a-list athlete. He knows his skills and lack thereof, and he focuses on being a "team" guy versus an individual with individual goals. It's why when one asks former teammates and media members about the kind of guy Eric was in the locker-room, they come back with a "a locker-room guy. The glue. The one who makes it about the whole experience versus an individual pursuit."
“I think that’s why the reporters did come over and want to talk to me. It’s because I was actually going to tell you something outside the box a little bit - never say something stupid - but I’m going to give you an honest answer. I think that’s one of the reasons why I stuck around in the league for as long as i did - to be in the locker room and lighten the mood, and mentor young guys and give advice. You know, be a teammate in that way. I think that was definitely part of my package. Definitely when I was being shopped around as a player and trying to find the right fit. I took pride in that. I Always took pride in being a good teammate and speaking my mind.”
Now, as a retired player, not much of his optimism or his truths have changed. He's still the same guy except he's now pursuing a different life, one that allows him to scratch his curiosity which was often stifled while in the world of hockey.
“On game days it’s a physical beating. Schedule’s demanding - you play a lot games but man, we spend a lot of downtime on the plane. We could have read some books a little more. Lessened the card games or tv series and actually informed or educated ourselves. I never did anything until I was thrust into school and I had to. On non-game days, you practice at 10:30, end at 1:00 . You’ve got a lot of time left. Of course tons of guys had families. I never had a kid or anything like that when I was playing so that’s a little different. I just wish there was a little more education and awareness for sure. I wish I could say I was like the poster child for that but I was right in the mix of everybody else. When you’re making that much money and you see those paychecks coming in, you think you’re on top of the world.”
He's now using his lessons-learned to advise others in the game and openly talking about gender roles, masculinity, and locker-room talk.
“You can imagine what’s being talked about in the locker room or when you put 20 or 30 hockey players onto a plane. We’re always around each other. You definitely get stuck in a little bit of a box. It’s good to have outside interests. Just for your own sanity. I just keep saying there’s so much out there! You don't want to be the oddball that everybody's kind of making fun of, but at the same time why are guys being made fun of for being themselves and for trying to better themselves as a person.”
It's inspiring. Ice-breaking (pun intended) as it's extremely RARE to hear a professional athlete, especially an NHL'er talk so candidly and openly about the importance of Vulnerability.
“If you’ve never experienced [vulnerability] I don’t think you’re human. We’ve all been vulnerable at times and feel that at our lowest. I think the one thing that does affect men - if we’re going to connect the two - is how scared they are to show it. .And I’m a victim here. Looking at it. I’m guilty. I’ve been like that. I’ve thought, you’re not supposed to show that because you’re a man. Men aren’t supposed to be vulnerable. But you’re lying to yourself if you’ve never felt vulnerable.”
There's a lot here. A lot to learn from. A lot to listen to. A lot to soak in. I walked away feeling inspired and excited to share this with a group of Men who desperately need some guidance. If that's too much pressure to put on Eric, I'll take the brunt of it. Whether he recognizes it or not, he's facilitating a space for conversation, for truth-talk. Hockey world. Sports world. You paying attention?
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“Right now I’m doing some real estate deals and learning all about that. I've got a wife that’s pregnant. I've got a family that’s on the way and i have to find ways to provide for them. Yes, Hockey’s always been that crutch.
Once you’re put into that fight-or-flight situation you’ve got to figure out how you’re going to feed the mouth that is going to be entering our family soon. And hockey’s not gonna be the way right now. That part’s over. I want to keep growing. I want to keep supporting my family and the lifestyle that I want them to live. That’s going to be a lot of hard work.
I’m starting from zero again. And that’s the motivation.”
**reach out to Eric if you need advice // his offer is sincere**
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