Borna Rendulić's dreams finally came true. The best Croatian hockey player will join the best hockey league in the world, the North American NHL.
After his second consecutive brilliant season in the Finnish SM-liiga, the 22-year-old decided to make the move of his career and sign with the NHL franchise Colorado Avalanche. Zagreb-born Rendulić thus became a part of the Croatian sports history, as the first hockey player that began his career in Croatia and signed a contract with a NHL club.
Rendulić's two-year, two-way contract with the very popular Avs is in the possession of the khl.hr editorial office. A long, hot summer awaits Rendulić, since he has to fight for his place in the Denver-based team during the preseason. One option is the transfer to the Avs AHL branch Lake Erie Monsters, due to the fact that he does not have a guaranteed spot on the roster.
His new franchise is not the only one that showed an interest in the young player from Zagreb's suburban Vukomerec. During the previous years, NJ Devils have been preparing a couple of offers, while Rendulić personally spoke with the one of the most famous GMs in NHL history, Lou Lamoriello. Somewhat less determined were the Washington Capitals and Dallas Stars, while recently, Edmonton Oilers also expressed interest. The only firm offer, beside the one from Colorado, was the contract offer from Nashville Predators (also in the possession of the editorial office). However, Rendulić opted for Colorado, despite the Predators' offer being equally generous.
Players of Croatian descent have already made their mark in the NHL, including the legendary Joe Sakic, as well as Mark Pavelich, Canadian Olympic-gold winner Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Colorado defender Cory Sarich. David Valek, a 23-year-old from Zagreb, started playing hockey at the ice rink at Šalata and then moved to the USA. With an US citizenship, he played for the USA U-17 and U-18 national teams, but later pursued an academic career at Harvard.
In the Rendulić's Colorado agreement, Sakic undoubtedly played his part. As the executive vice-president of hockey operations (second only to the owner Stan Kroenke and his son, director Josh), he brought in Rendulić and made his dreams - as well as the dreams of the most Croatian hockey fans - come true.
"This really is a dream come true, but just the first part of the dream. Throughout the years, I was aware of the continuous Colorado interest and I was in touch with the NHL agents. I have always believed this moment will come and I had no doubts when the opportunity arose. I was overjoyed. Now, there is a difficult summer ahead, I will prepare myself with my personal trainer Jurica Franković. My goal is to make it to the team and play in the NHL - I do not want to be just another passer-by", said ecstatic Rendulic.