By Melissa Marchionna,
Media Relations Intern, Boston Bruins
At 6’9”, Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara
may seem intimidating, and to on ice opponents, that characterization is certainly true. But since signing with the B’s last summer, the Bruins captain has helped to spread cheer to Boston kids through his "Z’s Zone" charity suite.
Captain Chara created Z’s Zone to bring a little joy to Boston families who are going through rough times.
Z’s Zone works with childrens charities such as Home for Little Wanderers, the Ace Bailey Children's Foundation, Childhood Glaucoma and the Jimmy Fund to bring young fans and their families to Bruins home games.
Z’s guests watch the action from some of the best seats in the TD Banknorth Garden, are featured on the scoreboard (Garden HDX) during the game and score some serious swag including Bruins hats, photos, and coveted Z’s Zone t-shirts.
“You always want to try and support them through the struggles that these kids and their parents go through,” said the defenseman, “That’s one of the things you can actually help make easier for them.”
Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron
also gives back to the community, and in the beginning of the 2006-07 season, he launched the “Patrice’s Pals” luxury box, a similar concept to Z’s Zone.
“I love kids, so I wanted to bring some kids and families from the Boston community to actually have a chance to watch the Bruins,” said Bergeron.
And since its inception at the 2006 home opener, Bergeron has hosted more than 150 pals in his special suite. Many of these visitors suffer from debilitating medical conditions, and just like Z, Patrice does his best to brighten their lives by offering them the ultimate VIP treatment at Bruins home games.
Not only do pals watch the game from Patrice’s luxury suite, but after the game they make an exciting visit to the B’s locker room where they meet Patrice and other Boston favorites and receive a goodie bag full of Bruins memorabilia.
The Make-a-Wish foundation, an organization that grants wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions, is just one of the many organizations to whom the Bruins assistant captain has reached out.
For many of these children, watching a Bruins game in person and meeting their favorite Bruin is their biggest dream.
Patrice is happy to help make these dreams a reality, because he knows what it’s like to idolize an NHL star. “I was the same way when I was a kid,” said the Bruins center. “I was looking up to some of my favorite players. The first time I had the chance to meet them was just awesome.”
Chara is also very empathetic to the dreams of young fans. “I know exactly how they feel," he said. "Even though I’m 30 years old, I feel like a kid when I meet some famous people or some celebrities.
"I just the other day met Shaquille O’Neal and I felt like a kid.”
Community service has been personally rewarding to both Zdeno and Patrice.
Both players recognize the “warm feeling” they get inside from helping their community.
According to Zdeno, giving back “makes you appreciate that you are fortunate [enough] to play this sport for a living.”
Patrice also feels a sense of gratitude to the game, and for him, one the biggest prizes hockey has afforded him are the relationships that he has formed with his former pals.
“The first kid I met, his name was Cole and he was just great,” Patrice said of one of his fans, a former hockey player with the South Shore Sea Hawks and die-hard hockey fan who suffers from a rare kidney disease. “I met him in the children’s hospital, and he was awesome.”
For Patrice, the desire to help his community is further fueled by his parents example of charity in his youth -- Bergeron's mom, Sylvie, is a social worker.
“Growing up, my family was always pretty generous,” said the young Bruins center. “I grew up with that mentality and [now] I just carry it on with me.”
Both Captain Chara and his Assistant Bergeron have made a remarkable impact on the lives of children in Boston.
“We’re both just trying to do something for the community,” says a modest Bergeron.
Zdeno hopes to lead by example and inspire his fellow Bostonians to take an active role in improving the world around them.
“There are never enough people who can help the community or the services…I think it’s a good thing to help the community, the city, or anything you do.
"The word ‘help’ has a big meaning.”