I plan to write an omnibus game wrapup post spanning each of the Bruins’ three California games and am currently thinking of pithy punny titles to use. But this post is just to celebrate the Bruins’ big captain.
Zdeno Chara just played his 1,000th game, which is a big achievement, but a big guy like him is used to doing big things. Big Z grew his reputation–strong, intimidating, good with the slap shot–as a member of the New York Islanders, a team he joined in 1996 through the draft. He moved to the Ottawa Senators in 2001 as part of the infamous trade that brought Alexei Yashin to the Islanders (I can practically feel Vicky cringing right now), just continuing to grow and get better. In his first All-Star appearance in 2003, he had the second-hardest shot…well…that would soon change, wouldn’t it? But he and Ottawa parted ways in 2006 and the Boston Bruins, at the time searching for leadership since the big trade that sent Joe Thornton three time zones away to San Jose, got him and put the C on his sweater.
2007 saw his first time winning the hardest shot competition and though his plus-minus wasn’t great because, well, the Bruins weren’t great, he was still getting better and better. He bounced back the next season and made the critics eat their crow, basically. At the 2009 ASG, he had an idea that really encapsulates one aspect of his big personality: again placed in the hardest shot contest, he had all the contestants pony up $1,000 each, with the full pot going to the winner’s favorite charity. Chara netted $24k total when the six participants’ teams and the NHLPA chipped in too. Z won that one and donated the bounty to Right to Play. 2008-09 was just a really good year for him in pretty much every way and he got the Norris Trophy as a reward. 2010 saw the Bruins secure him until 2017.
In 2011, he scored a hat trick–pretty rare for a defenseman–and paid a sweet tribute to countryman Peter Bondra by pretending to throw his own hat in the air in celebration. That gesture can still be seen on an NHL Center Ice ad I keep seeing that focuses on a TV whose owner moved from Boston. Of course, 2010-11 wasn’t just good for him inasmuch as he scored a hat trick. He also brought home something else:
I don’t think anyone will soon forget the scream he let out when he raised the Cup for the first time. Also, his idea to have the entire team gather around–BUT NOT TOUCH!–the Prince of Wales trophy upon taking the Eastern Conference was a good one and just shows how he’s a leader, but he’s not self-centered.
He certainly does try to shepherd his cubs, as it were. Tyler Seguin especially speaks highly of his leadership style. When things aren’t going right, Chara will ask what’s going on, just see if he can make things better, and that concern is something Seguin seems to enjoy. Chris Kelly remembers Chara from the Sens days–Kelly was a newbie in 2005-06, part of a big core of youthful new guys, and Chara dutifully took them all under his wing.
I’d quite like to meet him in person sometime. Sure, my 5’2″ frame will look laughable next to him, but that doesn’t matter. He seems like an interesting, nice guy and maybe he can chat in all seven languages that he knows.
Can we not mention the Pacioretty incident? Both men buried the hatchet and moved on; Pacioretty has come back in an astonishing way and should be rewarded with the Masterton Trophy, while Chara calmly fought off rather absurd calls to have him charged with a crime in a court of law.
Did you know that his first goal ever as a Bruin was a) a power play goal and b) assisted by Patrice Bergeron? I tried to find video of it, but to no avail. NESN showed video of it during a recent Bruins broadcast.
Or that apparently the number 3 rules his life? Check out this infographic from The Hockey News (yay, digital AND traditional subscription):
The other two Slovakians to wear a C: Peter Statsny and Stan Mikita. (I’m sure Krista likes that.)
Claude Julien continues to be pleasantly surprised by just how good he is and pretty much everyone expects him to keep going–heck, maybe someday I’ll be talking about his 1,500th game. Or his 2,000th. Who even knows? With Big Z, anything is possible, even a slap shot that is faster than most cars can safely drive.