Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Case for the Washington Capitals Retiring Peter Bondra's #12

Think of this biography of Peter Bonda as an open letter to the Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis in an effort to get the club to finally honor Bondra with the long overdue tribute of having his number retired by the Capitals.


Bondra was born on this date in 1968 in Lutsk, Ukraine in the Soviet Union after his Czechoslovkain father had moved there as a teenager. When Bondra was three years old, the family moved back to Poprad, Czechoslovakia where he father had originally come from.

Bondra played one season in the lower divisions of the Czech system for HK Poprad before transferring to VSZ Kosice in the First Division at age 18 during the 1986-87 season, where he joined his older brother Juraj Bondra, a defenseman who had already won a title the previous year.

After scoring just 4 goals and 9 points in 32 games of his first season, Bondra impressed with 27 goals and 38 points in 45 games in 1987-88. The team would go on to win the Czechoslovakian championship that season with both Bondra brothers on the roster.

Bondra Kosice
Peter Bondra started his career with VSZ Kosice

Bondra would continue to progress, scoring 30 goals and 40 points in 1988-89 before raising his totals to 36 goals and 55 points in 49 games of the 1989-90 season, leading the team in scoring both seasons.

This earned him the attention of NHL scouts, which led to his being drafted by the Washington Capitals, who drafted him in the 8th round of the 1990 NHL Entry Draft.

He immediately made the move to North America for the 1990-91 season, making the Capitals roster on his first attempt without having to play any games in the minors, as many Europeans often did to get used to the harder hitting game played on smaller ice while assimilating to the change in culture.

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A young Bondra during his rookie season

As a rookie, Bondra played in 54 games, scoring 12 goals and 28 points. The following season he saw action in 71 games while raising his point totals to 28 goals and 28 assists, with both categories equaling his point total from the year prior, which allowed him to double his point total to 56.

Bondra really found his stride in 1992-93, scoring 37 goals and adding 48 assists for 85 points to lead the team in scoring for the first time. That season, he also made his first NHL All-Star Game appearance in recognition of his fine season.

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Bondra appeared in his first of five All-Star Games in 1993

He was limited by injuries to 69 games in 1993-94, which limited his point totals to 24 goals and 43 points.

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Bondra jumps over the boards during the 1993-94 season

Despite being limited 24 goals that season, he had a career night on February 5, 1994 when he joined an exclusive club when he scored 5 goals in a 6-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Bondra also set two NHL records that night, tying the mark for the Most Goals in a Period with 4 and setting the mark for the Fastest Four Goals, which required just 4:12.

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Peter Bondra versus the Tampa Bay Lightning

Also during 1994, Bondra changed his citizenship to Slovakian, having come to the United States as a citizen of the Soviet Union in 1990. That allowed him to make his first international appearances, taking part in four games of Olympic Qualifying play for Slovakia.

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Bondra in the rarely seen early Slovakia jersey

The start of the NHL season was delayed due to labor issues, but once the season started, Bondra struck for 34 goals in 47 games. Despite having just 9 assists, Bondra's 43 points were enough to lead the Capitals in scoring for the second time. His 34 goals led the NHL, two ahead of Jaromir Jagr's 32.

In 1995-96, Bondra set a career high with 52 goals, just missing out on leading the team in points with 80 to teammate Michal Pivonka's 81. Bondra's 52 goals were 29 more than teammate Steve Konowalcuk's 23. He also appeared in his second All-Star Game, the first of four consecutive appearances. Of note, his 52 goals came in only 67 games for Washington, as Bondra missed the start of the season due to a contract hold out, which resulted in him (and holdout teammate Pivonka) playing in 7 games for the Detroit Vipers of the International Hockey League, the only minor league games of his career. In those seven games, Bondra scored 8 times.

Bondra Vipers
Bondra duirng his brief stint with the Vipers

That fall, Bondra again suited up for Slovakia, this time at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, where he scored 3 goals in 3 games.

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Bondra during the 1996 World Cup

For the 1996-97 season, he once again led the Capitals in scoring with 46 goals and 77 points, which was 29 goals more than Konowalchuk's 17 and 31 points ahead of Dale Hunter's 46. Washington missed the playoffs that season, ending a run of six straight postseason appearances by the Capitals to start Bondra's NHL career.

Washington revamped it's roster for the 1997-98 season, but Bondra still was able to lead the team in scoring for the fourth time as he equaled his career high with 52 goals on his way to 78 points, just 2 points ahead of Adam Oates. Bondra's 52 goals again led the NHL, tying him with Teemu Selanne and 1 ahead of Pavel Bure and John LeClair at 51.

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Bondra led the league with a career best 52 goals in 1997-98

The 1997-98 season was the first where the NHL took a break from its schedule in February to allow its best players to compete for their home countries at the Olympics. Bondra played in two games for the Slovaks in the Preliminary Round, scoring a goal while amassing an eyebrow raising 25 penalty minutes!

In the postseason, the Capitals, who had only advanced past the second round of the playoffs once in their previous 23 seasons, defeated the Boston Bruins in 6 games, the Ottawa Senators in 5 and advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals by eliminating the Buffalo Sabres in 6 where they lost in four straight to the defending champion Detroit Red Wings. Bondra tied for the team lead with 7 goals after playing in 17 of the team's 21 playoff games.

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Bondra made his only Stanley Cup Finals in 1998

He would play in 66 games in 1998-99, scoring 31 goals and 55 points to lead the team in scoring for the fifth time despite missing 16 games that season. He had a difficult 1999-00 season when he scored 21 goals and 38 points in 62 games.

The 2000-01 season saw Bondra rebound nicely with a 45 goal, 81 point year while playing in all 82 games for Washington, just missing out on leading the club in scoring by a single point to Oates.

Bondra led the Capitals in scoring five times

Bondra again came second in team scoring in 2001-02 to the newly arrived Jagr, but led the team in goals with 39 to go with his 31 assists for 70 points. Following the season, Bondra competed for Slovakia in the first World Championships of his career, where the Slovakians stunned the hockey world by winning gold over Russia. Bondra had an outstanding tournament, scoring 7 goals and 9 points in 9 games, including the game winning goal in the final with less than two minutes remaining.

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Bondra celebrating with the World Championship trophy in 2002

In 2002-03 Bondra had his ninth season of 30 goals or more when he had exactly 30 as part of a 56 point season. After the conclusion of the NHL season, he returned to the World Championships with Slovakia, scoring 3 goals and 5 points in 8 games on his way to earning a bronze medal.

In 2003-04, his 14th season in Washington, he had 21 goals and 35 points in 54 games but was traded to the Ottawa Senators for Brooks Laich and a second round draft pick in a salary cutting move by the Capitals, who had already dealt away Jagr, and finished in the bottom two of the NHL that season. Bondra played 23 games in Ottawa, scoring 5 goals and 14 points.

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Bondra during his brief time with the Senators

Internationally, Bondra was named to the Slovakia roster for the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, but was unable to appear in any games due to an injury.

The 2004-05 NHL season was never played due to a lockout of the players by the owners. Many NHL players chose to play in the top European leagues to keep busy and in shape in case there was a resolution to the labor problems. While Bondra did suit up for his childhood hometown Poprad HK SKP, it was only for 6 games. While with HK SKP, he did score 4 goals and 6 points.

For the 2005-06 season, Bondra signed a free agent contract with the Atlanta Thrashers. He played in 60 games for Atlanta and scored 21 goals, his 14th season of 20 goals or more in this then 15th year in the NHL. He also contributed 18 assists for 39 points.

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Bondra with the Thrashers in 2005-06

Also during the 2005-06 season, Bondra competed in his second Olympics for Slovakia, scoring 4 goals in 6 games in Torino, Italy.

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Bondra celebrates a goal during the 2006 Olympics

A free agent once more, he signed to play the 2006-07 season with the Chicago Blackhawks. While he only saw action in just 37 games for Chicago, on December 22, 2006, Bondra knocked a rebound of a point shot by Janssen Cullimore past Toronto goaltender Jean-Sebasstien Aubin on a power play to score the 500th goal of his career.

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Bondra scored his 500th NHL goal with the Blackhawks

His final NHL totals were 503 goals and 389 assists for 892 points in 1,081games played. Additionally, he scored another 30 goals and 26 assists for 56 points in 80 playoff games.

Internationally, Bondra scored 18 goals and 22 points in 28 games while winning World Championship gold and bronze medals for Slovakia. In 2016, Bondra was named to the IIHF Hall of Fame.

Bondra was named to the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2016

Bondra ranks second in games played for Washington with 961, was first in goals (472), points (825), power play goals (137) and game winning goals (73) at the time of his trade to Ottawa and is currently second to Alexander Ovechkin in those four categories. He is still first in Capitals history with 32 shorthanded goals and 19 hat tricks and is third in longevity for Washington with 14 seasons played.

Today's featured jersey is a 1993-94 Washington Capitals Peter Bondra jersey as worn during his record setting five goal game on this date in 1994 when he set the NHL record for the Fastest Four Goals in NHL history.

The Capitals wore their star-spangled jerseys from their inception in 1974-75 through the 1994-95 season. They brought back their original white jersey for the 2011 Winter Classic, the annual NHL outdoor game held on New Year's Day. They would wear the throwback white version as their third jersey for four seasons until changing to the red version as their alternate for the 2015-16 season.

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Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1995-96 Washington Capitals Peter Bondra jersey as worn during his career best season of 52 goals in 1995-96.

The Capitals had adopted this style of jersey, often referred to as "the screaming eagle" style that season after 21 seasons wearing their original red, white and blue jerseys. This style remained in use through the 1999-00 season until being dropped by the team in favor of its black alternate jersey.

 Washington Capitals 1995-96 jersey
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Extra bonus jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 1998-99 Washington Capitals Peter Bondra jersey as worn during his four goal performance as a part of the Capitals record setting 9 goal scoring binge in a span of 11:32 against the Tampa Bay Lightning on February 3, 1999.

The Capitals had adopted this style of jersey, often referred to as "the screaming eagle" style in 1995 after 21 seasons wearing their original red, white and blue jerseys. This white style remained in use through the 2006-07 season before a complete redesign in 2007 coinciding with the new Reebok Edge jerseys saw a return to patriotic red, white and blue colors.

Washington Capitals 98-99 jersey
Washington Capitals 98-99 jersey

Extra extra bonus jersey: Today's extra extra bonus jersey is a 1999-00 Washington Capitals Peter Bondra jersey. The Capitals comprehensively rebranded themselves in 1995 when they introduced an entirely new color scheme and logo, replacing their original red, white and blue colors with blue, bronze and black. Two seasons later in 1997-98, Washington debuted a new third jersey, which promoted their secondary logo to the front of their new black jersey. Note the arched treatment for the name on the back, which also employed a single white outline to encapsulate the entire name.

1999-00 was the final season of use as an alternate, notable for the NHL 2000 patch worn by all the players that season. For the 2000-01 season, this jersey was promoted to the Capitals primary road jersey, replacing the blue road jersey with the black jersey, which saw the names on the back become straight across and each letter now separate from the others from 2000-01 to 2006-07.

photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Extra extra extra bonus jersey: Today's extra extra extra bonus jersey is a 2002 Slovakia National Team Peter Bondra jersey as worn during Slovakia's stunning World Championship, less than ten years after becoming an independent nation following the breakup of Czechoslovakia in 1993 and being forced to start at the lower depths of the IIHF ladder system in Pool C.

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Slovakia 2002 WC jersey photo Slovakia 2002 WC B.jpg

Today's video section is highlights of Bondra's five goal performance, which includes his record setting four first period goals.

Next is video of Bondra's 500th NHL career goal while he was a member of the Blackhawks.

Finally, here are highlights of Slovakia winning the World Championship, with Bondra scoring the clinching goal in the gold medal game.

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