The NHL has always been a place filled with diverse and unique individuals coming from all walks of life. One of the more fascinating players to skate in the NHL is Rumun Ndur.
For those unfamiliar with Ndur, he was a Nigerian-born Canadian drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the third round of the 1994 NHL Entry draft. Among several other stops across North America and Europe, Ndur spent time playing in the NHL with the Sabres, New York Rangers and Atlanta Thrashers.
Recently, The Hockey Writers had the privilege of catching up with the hockey journeyman. We discussed his uncommon path to the NHL and found out what he’s up to now.
The Hockey Writers: Being born in Nigeria, you have one of the more unique stories in hockey. What was it like breaking into hockey coming from such a different background?
Rumun Ndur: It was a little strange at first because my family (parents) weren’t accustomed to winter sports, obviously, but we had been in Canada for 5-6 years when I first started playing and we were living in Hearst, Ontario, which is truly in the great white north of Canada so I got used to it with a lot of help from the locals in the town.
THW: Did you have any inspirations?
Ndur: I really don’t recall having inspirations at the time. I just wanted to stand up on the ice and keep playing the game. As I got older, my first true inspiration was Wendel Clark. I wore the number 17 whenever I could and tried to look exactly like he did on the ice.
THW: You were quite the journeyman in your career. How did you manage the constant change?
Ndur: It wasn’t really hard doing all the travel in my career because that was just part of the game. Even during my first couple years as a pro in Rochester I was always flying to different cities meeting up with my parent club the Buffalo Sabres. I got used to the change of scenery at an early age.
THW: What would you consider to be your greatest achievement in hockey? Was it winning the Calder Cup with the Rochester Americans? Can you describe what that was like?
Ndur: My greatest achievement… tough question to be honest. I think playing in the NHL is my biggest goal, I like to think I achieved some other great things in the game as well. Like you said, I won a Calder Cup with the Rochester Americans, which was an amazing feeling accomplishing that with a bunch of great guys, great city and for coach John Tortorella.
THW: What’s your most memorable moment from the NHL?
Ndur: Most memorable moment in my NHL career is definitely playing in Wayne Gretzky’s last ever game. To see the grace in which he handled the situation and see the fans send the greatest ever player off into retirement like that was just incredible! I’m really honored that I was able to be a part of it.
THW: You were never afraid to drop the gloves. Who was your toughest opponent to fight against?
Ndur: Dropping the gloves was a role I had to play to stay at the highest level during my career. It’s not an easy job, but I had fun doing it. Toughest guy I ever fought was probably big Jim McKenzie. He punches really hard!!!
THW: What was it like playing in Europe? Did you appreciate the opportunity to continue your career by playing overseas? Was it tough adjusting to life outside the rink?
Ndur: I loved every second of my time playing in Europe. I was able to learn a different style of hockey and playing less games saved my body some punishment. I honestly didn’t find it difficult adjusting to the lifestyle, especially in England because of the language. But also Austria and Slovenia were great places to play as well.
THW: What was it like having your own fan club while playing for the Coventry Blaze?
Ndur: The fans in Coventry and Nottingham were absolutely amazing to me! They really enjoyed my style of play and it was a pleasure to perform for them.
THW: Any crazy stories from your years in hockey you can share?
Ndur: Most of my best hockey stories can’t be printed on here, but perhaps over a couple beers sometime I’ll tell you a few.
THW: What are you up to these days?
Ndur: Currently I’m a coach of a AAA hockey team outside of London, Ontario. I’m determined to get back to the NHL as a coach now. It is truly my passion right now.
And here’s a few more quick facts about Ndur:
As an American based in Amsterdam, Joe provides a unique hockey insight, bringing a global perspective to the game. Joe has several years of experience covering the game on both a domestic and international level, including being credentialed for multiple World and World Junior Championships.