As Zdeno Chara
charts his course from Boston to the 2010 Olympics, the veteran defenseman knows he'll arrive in Vacouver as one of the players set to steer of the Slovakian ship.
The Boston Bruins captain since 2006, the 6’9”defenseman knows what it takes to inspire his teammates, but despite his years of experience, Chara can’t help but get excited about representing his country on the world’s biggest stage.
“Playing for your country, it’s always a big honor and I’m very proud to represent Slovakia,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s obviously a once in four years tournament and for sure it’s going to be exciting to be there.”
In addition to his 13-year NHL career under his belt, Chara has represented Slovakia internationally on three separate occasions—two World Championships and the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy. The Slovakian ice hockey team earned fifth place in those Olympic games, its best ranking in the team’s 12-year history.
Though his Slovakian team has never medaled, Chara is confident that anything can happen this year.
“I still believe we can beat anybody,” he said. “That’s the beauty of the tournament, of the Olympics—in one game, any team can beat anybody.
“Everybody’s starting at the same starting line, so we’ll see.”
The 32-year-old speaks seven languages (English, Slovak, Czech, German, Swedish, Russian and Polish), and is looking forward to practicing all of them in the diverse Olympic village.
“Learning languages is something that I really enjoy,” Chara said. “I think it gives you more options and opening doors in the world, but for sure, when you know languages and you’re going to places like the Olympics, it gives you a chance to talk to more people and get to know more people.”
Slovakia is scheduled to face Russia and Latvia in the preliminary round. Chara said facing the best athletes these countries have to offer will not be easy.
“Facing three to four top lines from every team, it’s pretty hard,” he said. “It’s going to be a challenge.
“[In the Olympics] you play against the best from every country.”