Each NHL Team’s Biggest Character: Boston Bruins, Zdeno Chára
Boston Bruins: Zdeno Chara
Well this was a tough one to chose because the Bruins have quite a few guys that stick out right away. Milan Lucic has been plowing through goalies recently, Tyler Seguin is breaching the league’s elite at the shockingly young age of 20, and Tim Thomas has been getting a lot of press recently for his decision not to join his team at the White House to be honored by the President of the US, as well as overcoming many trying times in his career like being born in Flint, MI and never having a starting goalie spot in the NHL until the twilight of his career in his late 30s. But when all was said and done Zdeno Chara came out on top, and here’s my reasoning.
If you don’t know who Chara is I suggest you go to the Boston Bruins’ webpage, first thing that will stick out is his name: Zdeno Chara. It’s certainly not a common American name (is that even a common Slovak name??) and it’s even fun to say. Then your eyes move over and your jaw drops when you see his height and weight. Chara is the biggest player in the NHL. And we’re not just talking about active players, we’re talking all time. Standing at an absolutely massive 6’9″ 255 lbs. it’s an understatement to say that he’s big. It’s not easy to be that big, believe you me. While being big definitely gives you a clear physical advantage, players of his size are usually limited to roles as goons/enforcers due to the fact you have to be so incredibly coordinated to play hockey at the level of the NHL. Big guys simply are at a natural disadvantage because they have so much more body to control that they can’t keep up with the speed, agility and puck handling skills of the smaller (I use that term relavtively) players in the NHL. Chara has managed to overcome the stereotypes that come with his size to be considered one of the NHL’s elites. He was named Captain of the Bruins in 2006, won a Norris Trophy (best defenseman in the league) in the 08-09 season, led his team to a Stanley Cup Championship last season, and was named the Captain of “Team Chara” (the blue team) for the All-Star game this past weekend. That’s a pretty nice resume if you ask me. I’ve talked a lot about how he defied the role as a brawler, but don’t get me wrong here he still knows how to use his size to his advantage. He’ll drop gloves when he needs to and I think most players would agree he’s one of the last guys you want to go into a corner with. But with great size comes a great gift. Chara’s size allows him to get so much torque into his shot that hecurrently holds the record for the fastest slap shot in the league clocking in at a whopping 108.8 mph. You have to pay me a hell of a lot of money to stand in front of one of his clappers, even in full goalie equipment. Speaking of equipment, I couldn’t even imagine how much money he had to have blown on equipment before he made it to the pro’s. All of his stuff has to be custom ordered because they don’t make any equipment that big.
So I’ve covered his size, but that’s not the only thing that makes Chara a character. He’s one of the most well distinguished guy guys on the ice and off the ice as well. He does tons of charity work, including spending time in Mozambique in the summer of 08 for the organization Right to Play. While there he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro despite being taller than it himself. He always seems to be better himself, from 2001-2005 he got his Bachelor’s Degree in Financial Planning, he skipped practices to take exams and studied late nights on plane rides from city to city while still putting his best effort forward on the ice. I guess if he had a shortcoming it would be his grasp of the English language, which is still pretty good. Sometimes in interview he stumbles or pauses to find the right word but I can’t even fault him for that because English is his 7th langauage. Among the others are Slovak, Czech, German, Polish, Swedish, and Russian.
Last thing I have to mention is that the guy grown one hell of a playoff beard. Thick and burly, it makes him look like a Slovak special ops agent that just escaped from a Russian P.O.W. camp after 5 years of hell.
There no doubt that Zdeno Chara is one hell of a character. While his size and the story behind it make him a great character, it’s the little things off the ice that make him a not just an even bigger character, but a great guy too. Not all players have to make this list for their novelty, thus is the case of Chara. At the end of the day I think it’s safe to say that Zdeno’s size and personality make him “larger than life” and a great CHARActer.