If you’re a "fun with numbers" type (and as everyone knows, I am precisely that type), or have been around other people at all in the last week or so, you may know that today’s date is 12.12.12. And if not… well, today’s date is 12.12.12. Cool, huh?
For many Caps fans, the number 12 isn’t just a number; it has much more meaning for us, a reminder of one of the franchise’s all-time great players and one of the best snipers the NHL has seen in the modern era, a man who had the ability to bring fans to the edge of their seats with one end-to-end rush long before our beloved Russian made it a nightly occurrence.
So it seemed appropriate to take this "special" day on the calendar and use it to honor someone a million times more special – the greatest Cap to ever wear #12: Jeff Frie-, er, Peter Bondra.
This summer marked twenty-two years since Bondra was drafted by the Capitals, the 156th selection overall in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft that would turn into a fourteen-year career with the organization spanning almost 1000 games. During that time he established himself as one of the League’s premier goalscorers, racking up 472 goals and 353 assists in 961 career games with Washington.
As a Cap Bondra was selected to the All-Star Game five times, led the NHL in goals twice, and established franchise records in six different categories. He also joined an elite club on February 5, 1994 when he scored five goals against the Tampa Bay Lightning, which incidentally was also his first career hat trick. (Fun fact: the hat trick goal was scored, not surprisingly, on the power play. In the box for Tampa? Roman Hamrlik.)
Bondra’s time with the club was brought to an end in February of 2004 when he became a casualty of the team’s rebuild, shipped off to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a second round draft pick and some guy named Brooks Laich (never heard of him). And yet despite the fact that he would go on to play his 1000th game, score his 500th goal and eventually retire in October 2007 wearing another sweater, there’s no question that Bondra is and will always be a Capital first. Memories of those few sad years will slowly get pushed out in favor of much happier times, the goals and celebrations of one of the team’s finest goal-scorers.
And so, Peter Bondra, we salute you… enjoy your day.