Peter Bondra's path to the NHL was a straightforward one, without any particularly large setbacks or obstacles to overcome. He was born in Luck, Ukraine, in 1968, but his family soon moved to Poprad, Slovakia, where there is hardly a boy who isn't passionate about hockey. He played one season for Poprad in the lower ranks of competition, and transferred to the VSZ Kosice team in the First Division at the age of 18. His older brother Juraj also played there on defense.
Bondra has always been willful, a fighter who does not shy away from rough play but will not tolerate cheap shots. But he is best known as a skilled sharpshooter who can pick off a corner of the net from almost any distance. As early as his second season with Kosice he was considered one of the top shooters in the Czech league. He even helped Kosice win a championship in 1988.
Kosice supporters were upset by Bondra's sudden departure for the Washington Capitals in 1990, but he was eager to show the NHL team which had drafted him 156th overall in that year's draft what he was worth. In his third season, 1992-93, he led Washington with 37 goals and 85 points. He enjoyed great support, both on and off the ice, from Czech center Michal Pivonka, who had been with the Capitals since 1986. Pivonka helped Bondra and his family get used to a new way of life. The two would also become holdouts in the fall of 1995, when neither player could agree to contract terms with the Caps; during their absence they played together briefly for the Detroit Vipers of the IHL.
During the NHL lockout of 1994-95, Bondra made a temporary return to Kosice. When play resumed in North America, the right wing had a breakthrough year with a league leading 34 goals in only 47 games. In 1995, Bondra became a Slovakian citizen, and during his standoff with the Capitals he played for the national team in an Olympic qualifying round as well as at a four-country tournament for the Pragobanka Cup, held in Zlin, Czech Republic. After re-signing with Washington he appeared in only 67 games, but still managed to score 52 goals.
Bondra took part in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, where he played for Slovakia and scored three goals in three games. He was also a member of the national squad that hoped to qualify for the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. Bondra, and Florida Panthers defenseman Robert Svehla, took part in the third game of a three-game preliminary round. However, Slovakia did not play as well in the preliminaries as the surprising team from Kazakhstan, and so was denied the chance to proceed to the final round.
When the NHL season resumed after a three-week break for the Olympics, Bondra picked up where he left off, scoring a league-high 52 goals. If that weren't enough, the Washington Capitals fought their way to the club's first-ever appearance in the Stanley Cup finals. Bondra was truly a workhorse for the team, which even managed to eliminate the Buffalo Sabres who were led by the phenomenal netminding of Dominik Hasek in the Eastern Conference finals. After that victory, however, Washington was swept in four games by the powerful Detroit Red Wings.
During the 2003-04 NHL season the Caps were struggling and had dealt superstar Jaromir Jagr prior to the All-Star Game and made note to every team that several players from their roster would be available to those interested. Thus on February 17, 2004 Bondra's 14-year career with the Caps came to an end, as he was dealt to the Ottawa Senators for young prospect Brooks Laich and a 2nd round draft pick in 2005. The Sentaors were eliminated early into the 2005-06 NHL playoffs, and Bondra was singed by the Atlanta Thrashers in the summer of 2006.
Following a productive season with the Thrashers, Bondra signed with the Chicago Blackhawks where he would go on to record his 500th career NHL goal on December 22nd, 2006. The Blackhawks fell short of reaching the playoffs that season and Bondra would announce his retirement from the game in October of 2007.
Player bios courtesy of the Hockey Hall of Fame