Thursday, November 8, 2007

Peter Bondra retires after 16-year NHL career

One of the most potent scoring forwards in the modern era retired as an NHL player on October 29th after a 16-year career.

Peter Bondra played 13+ seasons for the Washington Capitals before they sent him to the Ottawa Senators on February 18, 2004 where he was given a better chance to win a Stanley Cup championship. It would not happen as the archrival Toronto Maple Leafs eliminated the Senators in a hard-fought seven-game Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. It would end up as just a pit stop for him in the twilight of his career.

He would never get another sniff at the playoffs again as he finished up with the Atlanta Thrashers and Chicago Blackhawks following the lockout. Bondra scored 533 goals (30 were in the playoffs) in 1,161 games (includes 80 in the postseason) of his career. Just 26 of all his goals were not in a Washington uniform. He did go scoreless in seven 2004 playoff games for Ottawa.

Many hockey fans will picture Bondra as a member of the Capitals before any of the other three teams he played for. Why? That is where most of his memories lie. For example...

* He made five All-Star appearances (1993, 1996-1999).

* His career-best six-point night came against the New York Islanders on February 3, 1996 where he scored four goals in a 6-5 overtime win.

* His stellar was during the 1997-1998 season where he and Teemu Selanne each scored an NHL-leading 52 goals.

* Despite the series loss, Bondra scored the game-winning overtime goal in Game 3 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals against the Buffalo Sabres.

* He broke Mike Gartner's Capitals record for most hat tricks with his 14th on October 12, 1999.

* His fifth 4-goal game in the NHL took place in a 5-1 win at Ottawa on December 27, 2000.

* After signing a contract extension with Washington, he recorded his 16th NHL hat trick on February 1, 2001 against Toronto.

* He became the Capitals' all-time leading goal scorer on November 30, 2001 during a 6-2 rout of the Carolina Hurricanes. That was followed up with his next goal was being #400 on December 4, 2001 against the New York Rangers.

* He became the Capitals' all-time leading points scorer in his 907th NHL game by recording point #790 on April 5, 2004 against the Pittsburgh Penguins (broke Gartner's club record).

That's not even mentioning his 1998 Stanley Cup Finals appearance where the Capitals got swept in four straight games to the Detroit Red Wings. Despite that, that is a lot of milestone moments. However, his 1000th NHL game was played in an Atlanta Thrashers uniform on November 11, 2005 and his 500th NHL goal wound up taking place 50 games later during his final season while with the Chicago Blackhawks.

When the 39-year-old Bondra announced his retirement as a player, he said was not leaving the game entirely. In fact, he decided to take over running Slovakia's national team as their new general manager. Will he eventually return to the NHL in some capacity such as a coach or in hockey operations? Who knows, but one thing I'll remember while he wore that Capitals uniform was he burned the New York Rangers time and time again. It didn't matter if it was John Vanbiesbrouck, Mike Richter, Bob Froese or Guy Hebert between the pipes. Bondra tormented the Rangers year after year. Three of his 19 career hat tricks were against New York.

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