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Chara: Demitra was great teammate, better man

Thursday, 09.08.2011 / 1:54 PM / News

By Matt Kalman - NHL.com Correspondent

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Bruins captain Zdeno Chara arrived back in the Boston area Wednesday and reported to the team's Ristuccia Arena practice facility Thursday for the first captains' practice leading up to next week's official start of training camp.

Although the star defenseman is excited to get to work to start a new season, he also carried a heavy heart.

Like everyone else in the hockey community, Chara has been saddened by the tragedy of the crash of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane on Wednesday, which claimed 43 lives. Chara and countryman Pavol Demitra, one of the Lokomotiv players killed in the accident, were longtime friends and teammates from numerous competitions with the Slovakian national team.

"It's horrible. It's tragic and that shook up the whole world, the hockey world especially. And we all feel bad about the players' families and it's something that it's just hard to swallow," Chara said after the practice. "When you know … I know Pav very well, obviously growing up with him, and my neighbor, and other guys I played with or obviously a coach I had -- Brad [McCrimmon] I had in the Islanders system. When you get to know players and people as persons and players, it's just devastating."
"Obviously we all know he was an extremely talented player and people probably don't know how dedicated a dad he was, always spending time with his kids and family." -- Zdeno Chara on Pavol Demitra
Chara believes Demitra should be remembered both as a great player and an outstanding family man.

"Pavol was a guy who was always easy-going. He was always friendly with everybody and never really had conflict with anybody," Chara said. "He really was very favored and a popular guy between other guys.

"Obviously we all know he was an extremely talented player and people probably don't know how dedicated a dad he was, always spending time with his kids and family. And I think that speaks for itself, too. When he had offers from the NHL, but he choose to return back home and be there for their kids and his wife, when there was time they were going to schools and they chose the school system in Slovakia.

"So yes, it's a very, very sad time."  

It means a lot to us, we're very excited. We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high.

— Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola after Florida won the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery