Photo: Washington Capitals
Prior to the arrival and subsequent dominance of Capitals captain and franchise goals and points leader Alex Ovechkin in 2005, the title of franchise great was often given to forward Peter Bondra. In this latest Capitals Alumni Profile, NoVa Caps looks back at Bondra’s career with the Capitals and other aspects of his hockey career.
Early Life and Career
Bondra was born on February 7, 1968, in Lutsk, Ukraine which was then part of the Soviet Union, to a father who was from what was then-Czechoslovakia, and a mother who was Polish. The family, which included two older brothers, Juraj and Vladimír, moved to Poprad, which is now in Northern Slovakia. As most people in Poprad were crazy about hockey, Bondra took up the game, too, playing one season for HK Poprad in the lower rank of competition. At age 18, he transferred to HC Košice in the First Division of the Czechoslovakian League, with whom his older brother Juraj played. Bondra played three years with Kosice. During his first season with the club in 1987-88, he scored 27 goals and added 11 assists in 45 games played. During the 1988-89 season, he had 30 goals and 10 assists; in his third and final season in 1989-90, he had 29 goals and 17 assists. While with Kosice, Bondra was known for being a sharpshooter who could shoot the puck into any corner of the net. By his second season, he was considered to be one of the best goal-scorers in the league. In 1988, the club won the league championship.
Career With the Washington Capitals
The Washington Capitals drafted Bondra in the eighth-round (156th overall) in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft. With the Cold War essentially over at that time, the Caps did not face any political hurdles in bringing him over to North America. However, Bondra did have a valid contract to play for HC Kosie and as a result, then-Caps General Manager David Poile needed to jump through hoops with the Czechoslovak Hockey Federation to settle the issue. In any case, Bondra and 19-year old defenseman Jiri Vykoukal were brought over to Washington during the summer of 1990. Bondra came to America with his wife Luba, and his young daughter Petra. Once Bondra came over, fellow Czechoslovakian, Michal Pivonka, took him under his wing.
Bondra’s career with the Capitals started modestly, with 12 goals and 16 assists for 28 points in his first season (1990-91). His second season was much more productive ,as he scored 28 goals and added 28 assists for 56 points. He blossomed during his third season with the Caps, scoring 37 goals and adding 48 assists for 85 points overall during the 1992-93 season and was the team’s leading goal-scorer and top point-getter that season. The 1993-94 season saw his production drop, with 24 goals and 19 assists, but he did score five goals against the Tampa Bay Lightning on February 5, 1994, and had four goals in the first period alone. A video can be seen here.
During the 1994-95 season, his goal-scoring improved despite the fact that it was a lockout-shortened season. He had 34 goals (which led the league) and nine assists in just 47 games and equaled his previous season’s point total of 43 points. During 1995, Bondra became a citizen of Slovakia, one of the nations formed from the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, and played internationally for them the first time he played in an Olympic qualifying tournament.
Both Bondra and Pivonka held out for more money at the beginning of the 1995-96 and started the season with the Detroit Vipers of the International Hockey League. He scored eight goals and had one assist with the Vipers in seven games, However, both were back with the Caps in time for the Capitals’ game on October 20, 1995. Despite the late start to his NHL season, Bondra ended 1995-96 with 52 goals and 28 assists for a total of 80 points.
Bondra remained with the Caps until the 2004 trade deadline. During the remainder of his Capitals career following 1996, Bondra had one more season in which he topped 50 goals, scoring 52 goals during the 1997-98 season. He also recorded two more 40-goal seasons, scoring 46 in 1996-97 and 45 goals in 2000-01. Except for his very first season in 1990-91, he topped 20 goals in every other season in which he played for the team.
Bondra played nearly 14 seasons with the Caps, appearing in 961 games, scoring 472 goals and adding 353 assists for 825 points. At the time of his trade, he was ranked first in franchise history in goals and points, second in games played, and sixth in assists and was selected for the NHL All-Star Team on six separate occasions.
On February 19, 2004, the Caps traded Bondra to the Ottawa Senators for prospect center Brooks Laich and a second-round pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. The Caps were beginning a rebuild and were in the process of dealing veteran players in exchange for picks and/or prospects, with Bondra the latest at that juncture.
Remainder of NHL Career
Bondra finished the 2003-04 season with the Senators, playing in 23 games and scoring five goals and adding nine assists for 14 points. With a lockout cancelling the 2004-05 season, Bondra played with the Poprad Hockey Club in the Slovakian League. When the NHL resumed action for the 2005-06 season, Bondra signed a one-year contract with the Atlanta Thrashers, and subsequently scored 21 goals and added 18 assists for 39 points. After that, he signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks for the 2006-07 season and played in just 37 games for them, scoring five goals and adding nine assists. The 2006-07 season proved to be his last in the NHL. He announced his retirement from the NHL on October 27, 2007, finishing his career with 1,081 games played, 503 goals, 389 assists, and 892 points.
Bondra played in international competition, representing Slovakia, including the World Cup of Hockey in 1996, the Olympic games in 1998, the World Championships in 2002 and 2003, and the Olympic games in 2006. His team won the Gold Medal in 2002 and the Bronze Medal in 2003.
Since retirement, Bondra has done many activities, including representing Colosseo USA, a Slovak company that makes custom video scoreboards. He also served as General Manager for the Slovak National team. Most recently, he has been the Capitals’ Director of Alumni Affairs Business Development since October 2017. He has been very active with Caps’ alumni activities since retiring.
NoVaCaps: A Tribute to Peter Bondra
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NoVaCaps: Capitals Hire Peter Bondra as Director of Alumni Affairs
NoVa Caps: Should Peter Bondra Be in Hall of Fame
Monumental: Capitals Hire Peter Bondra as Director of Alumni Affairs Business Development
Caps Alumni Biographies: Peter Bondra
Check out more Capitals Alumni Profiles HERE.
Statistics courtesy of Hockey DB, Hockey Reference, NHL.com, and Quanthockey