Photo: Washington Capitals
Yvon Labre, Rod Langway, Dale Hunter, and Mike Gartner. These are the Caps greats who’s names hang high up in the rafters at Verizon Center. A small but elite group. Granted there are numerous other Capitals players that have made a tremendous impact on the organization who haven’t gotten their numbers retired. One player who is definitely overdue for recognition is Peter Bondra.
Mike Gartner is the last player to have his number retired by the Capitals organization. The ceremony took place on Dec. 28, 2008.
Peter Bondra was born on Feb. 7, 1968 in Lutsk, Ukraine. Bondra was drafted by the Washington Capitals with the 156th overall pick in the 1990 NHL Draft. As for any international hockey player, he had trouble learning English at first. Bondra did become close friends with fellow Ukrainian-born teammate Dmitri Khristich.
Bondra went on to become one of the most prolific goal-scorers in the 1990’s and a fan favorite throughout DC. He even helped guide the Capitals to the 1998 Stanley Cup final, their first in franchise history.
Here’s one of his playoff goals. This one is from 1996 vs. Pittsburgh.
Bondra scored 472 goals and 353 assists in 961 games during his 14 seasons in Washington. Bondra represented the Caps in five All-Star games in 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998, and 1999. During the 1997 and 1999 All-Star games Bondra won the fastest skater competition. Bondra led the league twice in goals scored, finishing with 34 in 1994-95 in a lockout shortened season and again in 1997-98 with 52 goals, which tied him for the lead. However, he didn’t win the “Rocket” Richard Trophy as that award didn’t exist until after the 1998-99 season.
In Bondra’s third season, he led the team with 37 goals and 85 points.
On Feb. 5, 1994 Bondra had a game for the ages that the fans in the old Capital Centre would never forget. Not only did he have the fastest hat trick in team history in 2:06 but he also finished with a total of five goals. Four of his five goals came in the first period. The Caps beat the Lightning 6-3.
Here are highlights from one of Bondra’s franchise-leading 19 hat tricks.
During the 2003-04 campaign the Capitals celebrated their 30th season and held a vote for the fans to determine the top 30 players in franchise history. Bondra finished second with 2,018 votes which was just 2o votes behind Olaf Kolzig.
That season was one of the hardest seasons for the franchise as they had a salary purge and traded away some veteran members of the team. Bondra was one of them. That was tough news to swallow for a player who was drafted by the Capitals and spent 14 years with them. Bondra was tearful in his press conference that morning.
“I grew up here. I grew up as a player. I grew up as a person. I have to understand that I have to move on,” said Bondra.
Bondra was traded to the Ottawa Senators for Brooks Laich and a 2005 second round draft pick. In addition to the Sens, Bondra also played for the Thrashers after the lockout before finishing his career with the Blackhawks. During his time in Chicago, he scored his 500th goal on Dec. 22, 2006 becoming the 37th player in NHL history to reach that milestone.
Bondra retired from the game on Oct. 29th, 2007 at the age of 39. Bondra led the Capitals in scoring until Alex Ovechkin passed him during the 2014-15 season. Bondra is also second to Ovi in power-play goals (137) and game-winning goals (73) but still leads the team in short-handed goals (32) and hat tricks (19).
By Michael Marzzacco