International Ice Hockey Federation

NHL history for Croatia

NHL history for Croatia

Rendulic plays first game for Colorado Avalanche

Published 11.01.2015 20:41 GMT+1 | Author Martin Merk
NHL history for Croatia
Before joining the Avalanche organization, Borna Rendulic played his sixth World Championship event with the Croatian senior national team at the Division I Group B in Vilnius, Lithuania. Photo: Sarunas Mazeika
When Borna Rendulic hit the ice in the Colorado Avalanche’s home game against the Nashville Predators, he also wrote history for his native country Croatia.

Of course there have been connections between the country and the NHL before. Many North American players with Croatian roots have joined Medvescak Zagreb, the Croatian team that joined the Russian-based KHL, and even got naturalized in the country of their ancestors.

And in the NHL there have been players with Croatian roots before. One of the most famous ones is fittingly Avalanche legend Joe Sakic, today the team’s General Manager who recalled Rendulic from the farm team Lake Erie Monsters on Tuesday. He even speaks the Croatian language being born to parents who emigrated from former Yugoslavia to Canada.

Another one is Goran Bezina, who became the first Croatian-born NHL player when he played five games for the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2003/2004 season. However, Bezina never played in his hometown of Split where there is no hockey team but where he played water polo. He learned to play ice hockey once his parents moved to Switzerland, the country he represented in 11 World Championships.

Rendulic is another story. He was born and raised in the Croatian capital of Zagreb and already played for Medvescak Zagreb in the country’s top senior league when he was 14. It was then he recognized that if he wanted to develop further he’d have to move to a top hockey country. As a 15-year-old he left for Finland, first for the IIHF Hockey Development Camp where he stood out, and then to join a team.

The Croat played junior hockey in Finland for five years before being signed by HPK Hameenlinna where he spent the last two years playing in Finland’s top senior competition, the Liiga.

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Although Rendulic is only 22, he has already represented Croatia in six senior World Championship tournaments at Division I or II level, in five U20 World Championships and two U18 World Championships.

When approached him last year he said: “My future ambitions are simple; I want to be a great hockey player. Playing in Finland is a dream come true for me, and maybe in a few years or so, I would like to play in North America, in the AHL or even try to play in the NHL.”

After the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B in Lithuania, where he wore the “A” on the Croatian jersey and won a silver medal in this category, the undrafted forward was signed to a two-year contract by the Avalanche. He started in the AHL where he played 23 games (4 goals, 3 assists) before the injury-plagued Avalanche recalled him on Tuesday to play his first NHL game.

He was the tenth Lake Erie Monsters player to compete with the Avalanche this season after being recalled and naturally he didn’t get too much ice time, 7:47, in the 3-0 defeat. He left with a -1 rating, had one shot registered on Nashville’s Finnish netminder Pekka Rinne and a post shot. But for now all that matters is he was there as the first NHL player who launched his career in Croatia.


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