Croatian forward Borna Rendulic, who comes from Medvescak's school of hockey, began living his dream and writing Croatian hockey history in the NHL. On Tuesday night the twenty-two-year-old from Zagreb played his first NHL minutes inside the Pepsi Center with the Colorado Avalanche.
Borna spent a spectacular 7 minutes and 47 seconds on the ice in his debut. He first jumped into the game in the 18th minute of the first period, and in the second period he took a shot at the Nashville Predators' net.
On January 28th, 2011, after Medvescak’s game against Villach, these were the words that the club’s president Damir Gojanovic used to describe Borna’s first professional goal for Medvesca Zagreb in Arena Zagreb in front of over 15,000 fans: ''This fairy tale in Arena couldn’t have ended better. When Rendulic scored, I couldn’t hold back my tears. The kid immediately showed that he was rowdy, a true Zagreb scamp. I dreamt that he would score a goal, and it turns out I was right. If he stays smart and doesn’t get carried away in nonsense, Rendulic will become a great, great player''. President Gojanovic was right. Borna is on the path to becoming a great player, even though for Croatia he already is since he is the first Croat born in Croatia to make it into the NHL.
Coach Danijel Kolombo, who was a part of Borna’s hockey development, also believed in that ‘rascal and Zagreb scamp’ as Gojanovic endearingly called him, would push boundaries and do the impossible.
''I knew that he would make it far, even to the NHL, despite few people believing that. I’m happy for him. I heard from him immediately after the game, he’s overjoyed and impressed, which is to be expected. He says he played a really good game. He wasn’t nervous, but that’s normal for him. He’s that type of player and that’s why he made it'', said Kolombo, adding:
''This is a monumental achievement not just for Borna and Croatian hockey, but for Croatia as a whole because that’s a big promotion for our country. Playing in the NHL is outer space for us. That means a lot to our kids that are playing hockey because it gives them additional motivation, and they can finally have an example of a Croatian player who made it who was born and raised in Croatia. I’m sure that this moment will change a lot of peoples’ minds about Croatian hockey and Croatian players.''
The Croatian national team member signed a two-way contract with Colorado in summer 2014. He spent the preseason with the team, and started the season off with their AHL affiliated Lake Erie Monsters, and it was only a matter of time before he played for Colorado. It was his outstanding performances with the Monsters (23 games, 7 points; 4G, 3A) this November that cracked open the door to the NHL, which we have no doubt he will use to his greatest advantage.
''Congratulations. I'm proud of him. It's unbelievable that he has become the first Croatian born in Croatia to play in the NHL, that's remarkable! He deserved the opportunity. I thought that they would pick him up even earlier because he stood out so much in the preseason and friendly games. He played well against Nashville, he hit the goal post, and next time he will surely score. This is an example to all of us, I mean us Croatian players, to work hard because who knows, maybe the same opportunity comes up for us'', said Medvescak's young goalie and Borna's teammate on Team Croatia, Mate Tomljenovic.
However, Borna's journey to the NHL certainly wasn't easy despite his talent. He developed his hockey roots in Medvescak, until at the age of 15 he went to Finland where he had to try three times harder than his teammates since he was a foreigner. He played his first pro minutes in his native club, Medvescak, in the '10-11 season. He played 17 games in EBEL with Medvescak, the club he came from, and crowned his premiere with a goal in Arena Zagreb in front of 15,000 fans during the Pan Arena Ice Fever spectacle.
''This is a major achievement for Borna considering that he grew up in Croatia at a time when hockey was completely on the margins. His performance in the NHL just goes to prove his commitment to hockey, practices, and games. His potential was never in question, it was just a matter of time before the opportunity presented itself for him to show everything he was capable of. He's a young player with a bright future ahead of him. I'm happy for him and congratulate him for his huge success'', commented Medvescak's current assistant coach Alan Letang, who played with Borna in EBEL in 2011.
Watch Borna's first pro career goal in Medvescak's jersey after the jump...