Natalya Bordak has always encouraged her boys to dream big.
“If you know how to dream, you know how to achieve,” she explains.
The achievements the Bordak boys aspire to mirror those of National Hockey League star Alex Ovechkin. When they take the ice for the River City Jaguars, Joe Bordak, Avik Bordak and Elijah Bordak intend to make special things happen.
Sure, dreaming of hockey stardom seems a big stretch on a Friday night at Mountain View Ice Arena, playing before a couple hundred fans for a team that wins about one of every five games.
But for the Bordaks, the River City Jaguars represent opportunity. And in the Bordak family, opportunity is never taken for granted. Dreams are not to be ignored.
When Natalya and Alex Bordak were growing up in the Soviet Union, dreams had no place.
In 1989, Natalya moved with 11 other family members from Ekibastuz, Kazakhstan. She said hers was among the first families to leave the country for America. Alex left Russia one year later, and met Natalya shortly after arriving in the United States. The three Bordaks playing this season for the Jaguars are the youngest of five boys.
Since joining the Jaguars at midseason, the Bordak boys have made a mark.
All three brothers attend Hockinson High School.
Avik, 16, has been especially dynamic, scoring a team-high 23 goals in 29 games with the Vancouver-based junior hockey team. Shortly after joining the Jaguars, he was named the league’s offensive player of the week.
Joe, 17, has five goals and 17 assists. Elijah, 15, has started this season playing midget hockey with the Portland Junior Hawks, but joined the Jaguars shortly after his brothers chose to play for River City.
Elijah has four goals and eight assists in 13 games playing for the first time against players as old as 20.
Often, the brothers are teamed on the same attacking line, a formula that has worked well for the Jags and gives special thrill to their parents.
“They understand each other,” Alex Bordak says. On Friday, Alex saw his sons team up for the Jags’ lone goal in a 5-1 loss — Avik scored it with each brother getting an assist.
“We pretty much read each other’s minds,” Avik agrees.
Jaguars’ coach Ross Gale is impressed with the feel the Bordaks have for hockey. The coach says it’s more than just familiarity from hours beating each other up playing pick-up games in the family’s yard.
“It’s fun just to watch them. You can learn a lot just from watching the way they move, and they’re always anticipating and making blind passes that go right on the tape,” Gale says.
“It’s an amazing thing to watch.”
But, not so surprising. The brothers have spent hours together on organized teams and playing pick-up games. Determination and perseverance are in their blood.
Natalya, who was 20 when she arrived in America, says she taught herself English by reading books such as Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
The Bordak boys — including 18-year-old Daniel, who graduated last June from Hockinson and now works for the family construction and gemstones businesses — played together on a Mountain View Mavericks pee wee level team in 2004. Avik, Joseph and Daniel also played together on the bantam-aged Junior Pioneers.
One of Alex’s fondest memories, he says, is of watching his boys help the Junior Pioneers win a large youth tournament hosted by the San Jose Sharks.
“We all got a lot of points that season,” Avik recalls.
Joseph and Avik started this season in Michigan, playing for midget (15-18) aged teams in the Northern Lakes Hockey League. But after a couple of months away from home, Avik and Joe returned to Clark County. They cite several reasons, among them the cost of playing in the NLHL, for their decision to return home.
So did having the Jaguars available, a team the Bordaks believe will improve the boys chances of moving to higher levels of hockey. Natalya says playing for the Jags has helped her sons learn discipline and accountability.
All three Bordaks could return to the Jaguars next season. Junior hockey is for players ages 15-20. But it seems likely that Joe and Avik will move to a more competitive environment in 2011-12.
Alex Bordak is two years into his own intense battle with lymphoma. Watching his sons play together is a special treat. The creativity in his sons’ hockey reminds Alex of himself as a young man playing the game on frozen rivers and lakes in the Russian town of Rostov-on-Don, some 2,000 miles south of Moscow.
Not that hockey was a given for American-born boys.
With five boys to raise — the oldest, Ruben, 21, works in the family business among several jobs — Natalya knew she had to find a positive outlet for their energy.
Watching them compete in pickup games with a ball or plastic puck on the family’s sport court, she could see they had a knack for the game their dad played on frozen rivers as a youth in Russia.
“We picked the most expensive sport,” she says with a chuckle.
Most important to Natalya was that her boys learn to compete, and to expect the best of themselves.
Even as the boys’ hockey talents are presenting opportunities, Alex’s cancer and the downturn in construction have challenged the family.
Those recent obstacles haven’t dampened the enthusiasm Natalya and Alex Bordak express for life in America. They cherish the opportunity to openly practice their Christian faith. And, Natalya emphasizes, they are thankful for the chance to pursue dreams, no matter how big.
“This (season) has been cool for us as parents,” she said. “We are so proud.”
Though the wins have been few this season, for the Bordak family the 2011 with the River City Jaguars could be called a dream season.