One-on-one with… Peter Bondra | NHL.com
The texts of the series “One-on-one with…” are published on Sundays on NHL.com. We speak with players from the hockey world to learn more about their lives on and off the ice. This week’s edition features former NHL forward Peter Bondra.
ARLINGTON, Va. – Peter Bondra joined the Washington Capitals at the age of 22 in 1990 when he knew very little about the NHL.
« I had never seen an NHL game before coming here, » said the Ukrainian-born Slovak. “The first match I saw, I participated in it. »
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An eighth-round pick (156th) in the 1990 draft, Bondra finished his career with 892 points (503 goals, 389 assists) in 1,081 regular season games over 16 seasons with the Capitals, Ottawa Senators, Ottawa Thrashers Atlanta and the Chicago Blackhawks. Bondra, who retired in 2007, is second in Capitals history with 472 goals, behind Alex Ovechkin (750), and third place in points with 825, behind Ovechkin (1364) and Nicklas Backstrom (980).
The 53-year-old returned to work for his former team as Director of Capitals Alumni Association and Business Development.
NHL.com recently sat down with Bondra to discuss the Capitals’ performances this season, Ovechkin’s record-breaking pursuit and Slovakia’s chances for the Beijing Olympics in February.
What is your job with the Capitals?
“I have two titles. I work in business development for Monumental Sports and Entertainment, and am director of the alumni association. We are very active. Before COVID, we did many things. The alumni association is growing and our goal is to be involved in the community. We organize two or three events a year in normal times and we have created a scholarship fund for local children. We give more than $35,000 a year for these programs so that these young people continue to play hockey, and that helps them in their studies. »
How would you rate the Capitals’ performance this season?
“We’ve had our ups and downs, as with many teams for different reasons. We haven’t had the chance to have our full training yet, but we’ve done well. There are seven players who scored their first NHL goal (Martin Fehervary, Connor McMichael, Aliaksei ProtasHendrix Lapierre, Brett Leason, Beck Malenstyn and Garrett Pilon), it’s great. We have exceptional depth. I wouldn’t say it’s a luxury, but there is someone who has done a good job somewhere to make these youngsters behave as well as the veterans on the team. These young players do not seem lost. They deserve their place on the team. »
Ovechkin had 20 goals, 23 assists and 43 points in 27 games. How does he maintain this pace at 36?
« I’m watching him more and more and realizing that the key in his case is his excitement for his sport. He is excited when he scores. He’s excited for his teammates when they score. He manages to score in different ways. Previously, everyone, including the 18,000 people in the arena, knew where he was going to score from. Now he is diversifying his ways of scoring goals and he is adjusting. That’s what helps him. For me, Alex is an exceptional player, a generational player. In over 100 years of history, there are perhaps only a few players in my time who had a shot as good as him. But I think Alex has the best shot in history. That’s what makes the difference in his pursuit of Gretzky’s record. »
Do you think he can catch Gretzky?
“I think just talking about it is great. Will he achieve it? We will see. I hope he does, but if he doesn’t, you have to think that just because it’s a possibility and he’s the second or third leading scorer in NHL history , it’s incredible. »
You have played for Slovakia at the Olympics twice and you were the GM of Slovakia at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. How do you assess your country’s chances for the Beijing Games in February?
“In my last Games, I was involved with the Slovak team as GM in 2010. We almost won a medal. We lost in the final for bronze (5-3 against Finland). It’s a special event. I had the chance to live the experience as a player too. I played in Turin in 2006 and in Nagano in 1998. It’s a special experience for every hockey player. […] The 2006 (Olympic) team might be the best I’ve played with, considering all the NHL talent and players that were there. Today, we have fewer (Slovak) players playing in the NHL, but there are several playing in European leagues and in the KHL. We’re not the favourites, but I’m sure we can surprise a few teams. Good teams too. »
you played with Zdeno Chara at the Olympics and the latter is still playing in the NHL with the New York Islanders this season at the age of 44. Would you like to see him represent Slovakia again in Beijing?
“I spoke to ‘Zee’ a few days ago. It’s in the talks, but he wasn’t sure if he was going to commit to it or not. So we’ll see. I hope he finds a way to get there. If he’s not there, we’ll miss him. His leadership is hard to replace, but it’s up to him and his family to make the decision. He will of course make the most sensible decision for him. »
Christmas is coming. What is the best Christmas present you received when you were young?
“I remember getting these skates. […] I skated everywhere with these skates, even on the street when the cars were passing and the snow was compressed on the ground. There was no ice, but I wasn’t heavy and I was skating on hard snow. »
How old were you?
“I think I was 6 or 7 years old. Something like that. »