We recently caught up with Colorado Avalanche forward Borna Rendulić! For the readers that aren’t familiar with him, he’s the first Croatian born NHL player ever (Joel Prpic played in the NHL and the Croatian national team, but was born in Canada.). He’s played all over Europe before crossing the pond to join the Avalanche organization. Rendulić was able to play 26 games in the AHL and 11 games in the NHL before suffering an injury. Even though that’s a tough way to end your season, he’s been working hard in the gym to be better than ever. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @bornarendulic. Make sure to follow us on Twitter @hkyblogger and “like” us on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/NotYourAverageHockeyBlog. So without further to do, here’s our chat with Borna Rendulić!
As per usual, we are in bold.
Croatia isn’t the biggest hockey market in the world, generally known more for soccer. How did you end up playing hockey with most of the country crazy about soccer?
Although I was and still crazy about soccer, I started with hockey almost by coincidence. When I was a 6-year old, I went with my preschool group to skating a course and one of the Medvescak coaches saw me skating. He liked my style and called me to join a hockey team. I said yes and the rest is history haha, I mean, that’s how I started with hockey, although I trained in soccer, basketball and handball as well in my childhood.
How often do you get noticed in the streets of Zagreb?
I don’t get noticed in the streets of Zagreb very often. But it happens from time to time. I only get noticed very often in Zagreb when I come for a hockey game.
What is it like to be the first player born and raised in Croatia to play in the NHL? Do you feel that there is a certain amount of pressure knowing that you represent Croatia whenever you step on the ice?
Well it’s a really big thing, definitely a dream come true and absolutely a huge accomplishment for me. Of course, there’s a lot of pressure that comes with it. You know the proverb from Spiderman, “With great power comes the great responsibility” haha. So yeah, the pressure is always here, but I’m trying to give my best to represent Croatia the best as I can.
What was your first game in the NHL like? Take us through it, the butterflies and the excitement.
My first NHL game was pure excitement and enjoyment. However, it’s impossible to describe all the feelings and emotions with words. There is a big mess in your head, you are fascinated by the crowd and everything, but you are still 100% concentrated on the game and every shift you take. You want to give your best while you are in awe, so yeah, it’s really hard to explain everything that’s happening out there. I hope I managed to give you at least a bit of the atmosphere.
Where is the puck from your first ever goal? Is it something you show off to your friends, or is it something you put away as a keepsake?
The puck from my first goal is in my home. It has a special place in my room with all the other medals and awards I won during my career. That is one of the things that I put away as a keepsake more than I show it off. I don’t like to brag so these types of things are something I keep for myself.
What’s the best part of your game?
I believe the best part of my game is my shot, especially my slapshot. Also I’m a winger with a big frame, and I am always being told that I posses a promising combination of size and scoring ability. I think I’m an intelligent player, good in corners, who likes to play offensive, but smart. I am tactically very good and I have a finisher’s instinct both in strength and skill to power my way to the net. I have a good technique and tendency for finesse and attractive game.
What’s something you need to work on?
On the other hand, I often look passive off the puck and I could up my intensity and sharpness. Furthermore, I need to fine-tune all aspects of my play. I have to place special focus on skating and adding grit, in addition to improving my defense and realization skills. That are some things I definitely need to work on.
So the next part is more of a rapid fire section, it’s a get to know you. You ready?
You’ve played hockey all over Europe and now in North America, how many languages can you speak fluently?
I speak Croatian natively, Finnish and English fluently. I think my English is the best of all three languages I speak, and my friends often tease me that I speak Finnish and English better than Croatian haha. I also understand Serbian, Bosnian and Montenegrin because these languages are very similar to Croatian.
Who did you idolize growing up?
When I was growing up I idolized Wayne Gretzky, but I also liked Mario Lemieux and Joe Sakic. They are the best of all time but at the same time, they were one of the few players I had heard of since we couldn’t have watched any hockey in Croatia. However, I later started to like Ovechkin when he came up and got to the NHL. I idolized him during the most of my career so I can say he was and is my idol.
There’s a lot of pranksters in hockey, who’s the biggest prankster in the locker room and what’s the best story you have?
Well all the guys in the locker room are cool and funny. We have a lot of pranksters, and when I first came to Colorado I instantly liked Berra, Briere and Hejda. But I don’t want to single out anybody, I love them all, they are all kings! I have a lot of stories haha, don’t know if I could say some to you and what story would be best for you haha.
Who’s the roomie on the road?
My roomie on the road is Dennis Everberg and we get along quite well.
What’s fun to do in Zagreb?
There’s a lot of fun things to do in Zagreb, although not as much as the US. But Zagreb has a lot of sights, wonderful parks and promenades. The clubbing is ok and everyone can find something for themselves. It’s not such big city, but it’s beautiful and is definitely one of the best places to visit when in Croatia, together with Dubrovnik. Zagreb has lots of restaurants, bars, wine bars and tourist attraction that can leave anyone breathless.
Advice for aspiring hockey players?
I think the best advice for aspiring hockey players is just to believe in themselves and to work and train their asses off. That’s the best combination for success.
Who should we interview next?
If you want some interesting hockey stories from Croatia, you should interview Ivan Sijan.
This is a terrible pun, but I just have to ask this, how often do people ask if you’re “Borna” ready and on a scale of 1 to 10 how annoying is it?
People ask me many things and thus they ask how ready I am. But it’s not a problem to me to answer any questions, so I don’t find that question annoying at all. So the answer is 0.
Thank you for your time.