“I’m loving it. I really wasn’t expecting to be here,” he said. “I already had a plane ticket home but then I got a call from the GM asking to come and play for a few games. I thought that was going to be it. I had a few successful games there, proved myself to be a penalty kill guy, a hard worker and that’s what they were looking for.”
Born in Annapolis, Bondra’s career had a decidedly American accent until recently. Prior to joining HK Poprad of the Slovak Extraliga, Bondra played four seasons of NCAA hockey with Michigan State and started out in the AYHL with Washington and Maryland. Even then, though, his seasons in the U.S. leagues were interspersed with appearances for Slovak age-group rosters and there’s no question that Slovakia is where David’s heart lies.
And what about life with such a famous father, a World Champion, twice an Olympian, twice winner of the Rocket Richard trophy and scorer of 503 NHL goals? For David, family pride notwithstanding, it’s important to assert his own identity as a hockey player.
“I think maybe those goalscoring genes skipped a generation – maybe my kids will be goalscorers if they decide to play hockey,” he joked. “My dad was a certain player and I’m a different type. I’m a hard worker, I’ll be the first guy in the corner, taking the hits, making the plays. That’s my style, that’s what got me here, so I’m going to stick with that.
“I always hear about having big shoes to fill, but I don’t look at it that way. I’m David, he’s Peter. What he accomplished was great but if I could be just 25% as good as he was, I’d be ecstatic.”
“It’s funny, I was in eighth grade when he retired and up until that point I really didn’t see him as a great hockey player,” David said. “He was just my dad. When I was born he was already playing in the NHL. He woke up and went to work at the rink. That was normal for me, I didn’t know any different. When he stopped playing and I got a little bit older I realized that he really did accomplish something and he was a great player.”
Still very much a hockey family, Peter and his wife Luba arrived in Copenhagen in time to see Slovakia defeat Austria 4-2 for its first win of the tournament - “maybe they brought a bit of luck,” smiled David. Younger brother Nick, another promising hockey player, is also heading to Denmark this week.
“I’m really happy that everyone’s here,” David added. “It’s great that they support me and come all this way to watch our games.”