After a season with Traktor in Chelyabinsk as a 16-year old, Sergei Gonchar moved to Dynamo Moscow. In those days, the amiable scoring defenseman was often involved in fist fighting on the ice. Most often his opponent was Alexander Selivanov of Spartak Moscow and he almost never joined in the team's offensive rushes.
Watching Gonchar play, the first thing you notice is his powerful wrist shot. Often you don't even see the puck flying through the air; you only spot it when it's already in the net. He didn't have such a powerful shot playing back in Russia. Gonchar transferred smoothly to the North American style of hockey. In a way, he was lucky that his first season was during the 1994 NHL lockout. Gonchar had a two-way contract with the Capitals, so he was able to spend the lockout months with Portland of the AHL, the Capitals' farm team. He perfected his English and started learning the North American playing style.
In the second half of the season, Gonchar was called up to the regular team but was slow to get accustomed to his new milieu. At first he communicated only in Russian with Dmitri Khristich and Peter Bondra (a Slovak who spent the first 14 years of his life in the Ukrainian city of Lutsk and speaks perfect Russian). Eventually, though, he widened his circle.
New Capitals coach Ron Wilson has had an influence on Gonchar's career. Within six months they had gotten to know each other better, and Wilson soon considered Gonchar indispensable to the team. Gonchar's trip to Nagano, Japan, with the Russian Olympic team helped raise his profile. In Nagano he performed well, and back in Washington his star began to shine.
In the 1998-99 season, Gonchar became the first Russian defenseman to score over 20 goals in regular-season play. Gonchar his regarded as one of the most offensive defenceman in the NHL and proved it yet again in 2001-02 when he scored 26 goals and finished with a career high 59 points.
The smooth skating defenceman saw the defensive aspect of his game improve in 2002-03, while establishing career highs in assists and points. In 2003-04, Gonchar and the Caps struggled and piece by piece high profile members of the team were traded away. Jaromir Jagr went to the New York Rangers, Peter Bondra to the Ottawa Senators, Robert Lang to the Detroit Red Wings and Sergei Gonchar found a new home with the Boston Bruins.
Upon his arrival in Boston, Gonchar continued to produce offensively and once the regular season ended he was the league leader amongst defenseman with 58 points (11-47-58) before being acquired by the Pittsburgh Penguins during the summer of 2005.
On the international stage, Gonchar has gone on to represent his homeland at the World Junior Championship (1993), the World Championship (2000), the World Cup of Hockey (1996-2004) and the Winter Olympics (2002, 2006).
Despite injuring his knee in the Eastern Conference semi-final, Gonchar would return to the Penguins lineup to help them win the franchise's third Stanley Cup title in June of 2009.
On July 1, 2010, Gonchar would leave Pittsburgh for Ottawa, signing a three-year deal as an unrestricted free agent.