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Tailing the Komets

More on Bogdan Rudenko

Posted in: Komets


Blake Sebring
Sat, 12/26/2009 - 11:33am

Here's a story I wrote about him in 2007.

Grandpa's lesson
K's forward Rudenko was urged to live up to high expectations
Author: Blake Sebring, bsebring@news-sentinel.com

Article Text:

Though he had never played the game, the old man would stand behind the net, watching his grandson like the most exacting coach ever. He rarely spoke, but the intensity of his gaze always seemed to urge the boy to skate faster, work harder and not be scared. He never said much but had a way of demanding everything.

"He rarely smiled," the grandson said. "He was an old-school guy, and he pushed me harder than anyone else. You could always see in his eyes that he wanted you to work harder."

When Fort Wayne Komets forward Bogdan Rudenko was 20, his grandfather, Ivan, died in 1997 at age 78. Until then, his grandson thought the man was too tough to die. He almost fit the stereotype North Americans have of an old, hard-line Russian, with a stern outlook and demeanor. He wasn't a caricature of a movie villain, though, just a man who had lived a life of hard work.

A former machine factory worker, Ivan Rudenko always had to be in motion, working or doing something. He would take his grandson to practice every morning on the bus, starting when the boy was 7.

"He always knew who was working hard and who was slacking off, and he was always tough on me," said Rudenko. "Everything I did had to be at top speed. If I did good, after practice he would give me some juice and an apple. I wanted to impress him and make him smile and show him I was working hard. It definitely helped because I really had to boogie."

As he grew up under the Russian youth sports system, Rudenko played hockey 11 months a year. Even when there were no games, the team would train.

"Sometimes it was good, because you don't get out of shape," he said. "They worked you hard there, and a lot of guys got burned out. I didn't really care because I loved it so much. I just did whatever they said. You didn't have to worry about anything except putting up good grades and doing well on the ice, which was more important than anything else."

It was important because that's what Ivan taught him in the beginning, setting the pace and expectations for Bogdan's life. There wasn't much time to be a kid, no time to develop close relationships with kids in the neighborhood. Now he's spent most of his adult life in North America and has closer friends here than in Russia.

Eventually, that start and those expectations drove the grandson into becoming a professional player. He might even have made the National Hockey League, but a torn Achilles tendon shortly after he arrived in North America killed any chances of being drafted. He has still made a good living playing professionally here.

Ivan would be pleased. When Ivan and his wife got too old to handle their house, Rudenko's father put them in an apartment, but Ivan couldn't slow down and take it easy. Every weekend he would leave for the family dacha outside the city and find some work to do. He was using a ladder one day picking cherries when he fell, breaking his hip. He was laid up in bed for more than a month when his heart finally quit.

Two years ago, Bogdan went home again to visit family and made a trip to Kazakhstan to visit Ivan's grave and clean it up a bit.

"I talked to him," Rudenko said. "It was all good."

Sometimes during a game Rudenko said he can still hear Ivan in his head, telling him to push more and skate faster.

"He's still watching from over there," he said, "counting how many goals I have and telling me to work harder."

Rudenko's family remains in Russia, including his nephew, Bogdan, who is 7. Wonder who's taking him to practice?

Tim Hoke
Sat, 12/26/2009 - 12:22pm

To bad.

Hit Somebody!!!
Sat, 12/26/2009 - 1:33pm

Heard lots of stories about Bogdan when he was here in Fort Wayne that doesn't exactly leave you with warm fuzzies. Sometimes the fast life will eventually catch-up with you.

Sat, 12/26/2009 - 4:36pm

Not a good situation at all.

Sat, 12/26/2009 - 4:46pm

Wow....what a shock to hear about this.

Mon, 01/04/2010 - 9:22am

Hit Somebody!!!, you should not believe any of the things you hear and half the stuff you see. And you certainly shouldn't be running his name through the dirt. Let me guess, you don't actually know him, right? Bogdan is a good guy. He did not do this. It is a horrible situation and if you don't have anything nice to say, how about you just say nothing at all.