There is a street in a small city in Western Slovakia that might have divided allegiances during the 2013 Stanley Cup Final.
On one side of the street in Trencin, Slovakia lives Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. On the other side resides Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa.
“It's going to be really interesting,” Hossa said. “Obviously we are good friends. He's my neighbor. He lives right across the street. But this coming up two weeks, that has to go on the side and we just have to play the roles. I’m going to play my game, he's going to play his game. I'm sure right after we'll be friends again. It's going to be hard two weeks, hard battle. It's going to be also fun and I really looking forward to it.”
Game 1 is Wednesday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).
Chara and Hossa have played together and against each other for years. They were teammates with Dukla Trencin’s junior team in 1995-96 then for three seasons with the Ottawa Senators. They’ve also played for Slovakia in international competitions on several occasions.
But Chara said they don't speak very much.
“Not that often,” Chara said. “Once in a while we call each other, text. But not that often. Obviously, with the schedules we have, we play on different days, so sometimes it's hard.”
This will be the first time they meet as foes on such an important stage.
“Yeah, we know each other for many years, from back home,” Chara said. “Obviously we cannot ignore that we know each other, we know the families. But we all know that right now our jobs are [to] play for our teams and compete and do whatever it takes to win games.”
They aren’t the only famous athletes from Trencin, a city of about 56,000 people in northwestern Slovakia. Columbus Blue Jackets forward Marian Gaborik lives there, along with the country’s most famous soccer player, Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel.
Given the new-look lines at Chicago’s practice Tuesday, Hossa and Chara probably will see a lot of each other on the ice. Hossa was on the team’s top line with Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews, and Boston coach Claude Julien is sure to try to get Chara matched up against them as much as possible.
“I try to joke with him because he likes to be serious all the time on the ice,” Hossa said of Chara. “I know he doesn't like to talk on the ice. I try to throw some funny stories on the faceoff, make him laugh a little bit.”