By John Bishop, BostonBruins.comWilmington
– Today’s naming of Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara
as the team's 18th captain came as a surprise to nobody, least of all the dozen or so press who have been watching his every move since July 1st, the day when he originally signed with the team as a free agent.
Nor did it come as a surprise to the teammates who have already seen him sacrifice his body for the good of the team. The man is a born leader, and anyone who has talked to him, seen him prepare, practice, or seen him play, knows it from a first glance.
But when Head Coach Dave Lewis walked into the practice facility locker room, there was a buzz befitting a royal coronation. The many extra media members present for today’s practice scrambled for space, shoved microphones into the Bruins mentor’s face, and, in a hush, waited for him to give the news that everyone in the room knew was coming.
“The announcement is that the captain of the Boston Bruins is Zdeno Chara
,” said Lewis. “Assisted by Patrice Bergeron
and Glen Murray.”
With that, the scramble for stories began. But this is truly old, old, news.
All three Bruins are true leaders; capable of leading by example on and off the ice, but Chara had been the de facto captain since he was signed by the 82-year-old franchise in July and his leadership has been the rock upon which new General Manager Peter Chiarelli has based his newfangled, retooled Boston Bruins franchise, ever since Assistant General Manager Jeff Gorton signed him last summer.
“We thought about guys who had been here before to be the captain, but we kept going back to Zdeno,” explained Lewis. “We’ve talked about it since day one with the coaches and the management team, with the scouts, with everybody. As it turned out we always kept reflecting back to those names. The decision was made officially yesterday, and announced today.
“It’s good and we are excited about it as a group,” said Lewis. “The players are excited about it. We’ve talked to the captains this morning and they are excited about it.”
So now, Chara is officially the keystone of the new Black and Gold.
“Zdeno’s leadership qualities have been apparent from the time he joined the players for their informal skates prior to training camp,” said Chiarelli in the Bruins official press release. “He leads by example, both on and off the ice, and he has earned the respect of everyone in our dressing room. He recognizes the leadership abilities of his two assistant captains as well as other players, and he also realizes that every player has strengths that they bring to our team and that bringing those strengths together is crucial to our success.”
Chara’s own strengths are apparent.
Big "Z" as many of his teammates call him, is the NHL’s tallest player at 6’9”.
Chara, only 29, is in his prime entering his 9th NHL season and has quickly become one of the NHL’s marquee two-way defensemen. Thanks to his legendary workout routines, he is 260 pounds of pure muscle and he can play solid hockey on both sides of the puck and is not afraid to drop the gloves nor hop into an offensive play.
He was named a First Team All-Star and was a Norris Trophy (best NHL defenseman) finalist in 2003-04 and followed that up with finishing fourth in the Norris, and earning Second Team All-Star honors in 2005-06.
After eight NHL seasons, Chara has a 57-118-175 point total and 901 penalty minutes in 530 games.
“[It’s] the leadership, the presence, and what he brings every night,” explained Lewis. “I don’t think it matters to him if it’s on the road or at home, he is going to play the same way. He wants to play against the other team’s best players. He wants to contribute offensively, defensively and in all critical areas of the game. And I think he’s capable of doing all of that. That is one aspect of it [his leadership qualities, but] training wise, and his dedication and commitment – all of those things are really important for an organization and it is nice to be able to have a guy you can look to and say, he brings those elements.”
Chara, as per usual, was humble, almost to a fault, and clearly had difficulty talking about himself in any chest-puffing manner.
“Obviously it’s a big day,” said Chara. “I take it really personally and from the bottom of my heart I will try to do the best possible job that I can.”
He quickly talked quickly about Bergeron and Murray as two players who will help him lead the Bruins turnaround after a star crossed 2005-06 season.
“I think Patrice is a very young talented player and will become one of the best players in the league,” said Chara. “Glen Murray is a very experienced guy. To have him on my side as an assistant captain is my honor and my privilege.”
And now the Boston Bruins are honored to have Captain Chara on their side.