A longer-than-expected transfer process kept Harvey Smyl tight-lipped over the last three weeks, but Tuesday afternoon he was finally able to talk about his newest Chilliwack Chief.
Hockey Canada at last cleared David Bondra to join the BCHL squad, and he made his debut Saturday night.
The 18-year-old picked up three assists in a 7-1 rout of the visiting Penticton Vees, providing a glimpse of what Smyl hopes he’ll bring to the lineup.
“In that game, although he was on the scoresheet, I didn’t think he played as well as he’s capable of,” Smyl said. “He’s got a great hockey mind. He handles and distributes the puck pretty well and he can shoot it fairly well. I thought he was better defensively than I’ve seen of late.”
The trick with bringing in the sons of ex-National Hockey League players is that you might get unfair comparisons.
David’s dad, Peter, scored 503 goals in the NHL for Washington, Atlanta and Chicago.
He only retired after 2006-07, so memories are relatively fresh of him flying down the wing and roofing a top-shelf wrist shot over another hapless goaltender.
Local fans may look at David’s last name and assume that he’s a chip off the ol’ block.
“The bottom line for our coaching staff is that we certainly don’t think that way,” Smyl said. “They’re individual players and people and this is a whole new world for him. Junior hockey in Canada and junior hockey in Chilliwack is quite a bit different than anything he might be used to.”
Bondra’s official arrival in Chilliwack was held up by his birth certificate, which says he was born in Slovakia.
Quite true, says Smyl.
“Junior A and down are not allowed any non-North American imports, and that’s what he would be classified as,” Smyl explained. “But in the appeals process, there’s the opportunity to file an argument on why he shouldn’t be classified that way.”
Smyl did his homework.
“David was born there, but he moved to the United States when he was about two months old, and he never goes back there except for a two week holiday in the summer,” Smyl said. “He did all his schooling in North America and played all his minor hockey in the United States. It was a pretty straight forward case to make.”
Which begs the question, why did it take several weeks for Bondra to be cleared?
“They (Hockey Canada) get to it when they get to it,” Smyl said. “The reason it probably took a little longer than it should have is that they originally told us we wouldn’t have to appeal it. So we went through the whole B.C. Hockey process, and two weeks later Hockey Canada said that yes, we did in fact have to appeal.”
Working with the Bondra family, Smyl had all the documents in order and never had any doubt that Bondra’s arrival in the BCHL would be green-lighted.
“Throughout this whole process I’ve been thoroughly impressed by how mature and responsible David has been,” Smyl said. “He’s just a solid, solid individual.”
Bondra spent last season with the USHL’s Chicago Steel, putting up five goals and nine points in 58 games.
“They were a poor team in a very good league, and some of that came into play with his point totals,” Smyl said. “But, having said that, he’s not a huge numbers guy at this point. Because he has such a good hockey mind and he has some skill, if he were to play in this league for a couple years he could make a bigger offensive contribution.”
Bondra was planning on going back to Chicago again this season until the situation changed.
“He tried out in Chicago again and they had a whole new coaching staff that wanted their own people and wanted to go in a new direction,” Smyl explained. “He went to another team, but he was late coming in and in the USHL they have their teams picked in June. So David was a victim of the situation and a friend of mine, a college coach, gave me the heads up.”
Bondra gets his next chance to impress the bench boss and local fans Saturday night as Chilliwack welcomes the Salmon Arm Silverbacks to Prospera Centre.
The game will be a good test for the Chiefs, who won’t have the energy of opening night to feed off of.
Just about everything went right for Chilliwack in the win over Penticton. If there was anything to knit-pick about, it was in the amount of penalties they took.
“But even with that, there was a ton of energy in that dressing room and on the bench, and they were trying to take that energy onto the ice,” Smyl said. “Sometimes that leads to unnecessary penalties. I agree that penalties were an issue, but I’d rather see them energized and taking some of those penalties than see me having to kick them in the butt to get them going.”
Smyl doesn’t expect his team to have the same energy level against the Silverbacks. But he doesn’t expect a moribund squad either.
“We need to have work ethic and play energized, but I think we’ll have to have more controlled energy,” he said. “Against Penticton, it was just one of those nights where the coaches didn’t have to do much motivating.”
Salmon Arm is winless to start the season, with back-to-back losses to the Vernon Vipers.
The Silverbacks took a 5-1 loss in Vernon on Friday, then dropped a 5-4 overtime decision back home on Saturday.
Chilliwack will be facing an ornery and hungry squad.
“I don’t know a whole bunch about them yet, but I know they’re very talented and they’re another team that will have a very good power play,” Smyl said. “The last couple years they’ve also been very disciplined. They don’t give you much in terms of power play opportunities.”
Puck drop is 7 p.m.