Big Zdeno Chara
is instead dipping into his bank account to back up his blistering slap shot. The Boston Bruins' towering defenseman, the defending champion in the Cisco NHL Hardest Shot competition, has issued a challenge to his five competitors.
Put up or shut up. It's all for a good Chara-ity, so to speak.
Chara is dropping $1,000 on the table and has asked his competition -- Sheldon Souray, Mike Komisarek, Vinny Lecavalier, Shea Weber and Mark Streit -- to do the same. They've all obliged, making a players' pot of $6,000 that will go to the winner's favorite charity.
Each of the players' respective teams -- Boston, Edmonton, Montreal, Tampa Bay, Nashville and the New York Islanders -- will also put up $1,000 each. And, the NHL will match the players' pot with $6,000, bringing the total to $18,000 for the winner's favorite charity.
Call it Chara's Charity Challenge, if you will. Not only is this for a great cause, but it adds even more juice to the fifth event in Saturday's 2009 Honda/NHL All-Star SuperSkills.
"I think it's overwhelming. I'm very happy with it," Chara told NHL.com. "Hopefully this is something we can start for the future so the players can have something between them and with the League involved we can raise some good money for charity."
Chara said he first came up with the idea over dinner Tuesday night in Toronto with Bruins P.R. man Eric Tosi and defenseman Andrew Ference
. The conversation turned to how they could make the events in the 2009 Honda/NHL All-Star SuperSkills more intriguing.
"We said, 'why don't we throw some money into it,' and we came up with the idea that if each player put some type of donation into a pot, the winner can get all the money and choose a charity of his choice, then that would be cool," Chara said. "It's for a good cause and it would make the whole thing more exciting and more competitive."
Over the next 24 hours, Chara said all five of his competitors were on board. The decision was unanimous and quick. Then the teams jumped in and ponied up as well -- and the League followed suit.
"It didn't take long then for everybody to get in," Streit told NHL.com. "It's going to juice up the whole thing."
The charity is the big deal in all of this, but Streit is 100 percent correct. The bragging rights that will go to the winner will be priceless.
"Definitely it's nice that the guys pooled together some money to raise money for a good cause," Komisarek said, "but to have bragging rights over Souray or big Zdeno Chara
would be pretty neat."
Chara, the two-time defending champion in this event, understands the bragging rights aspect, but he's also happy to know that if for some reason he doesn't win Saturday night's competition, at least something good will come out of it.
He's also hoping the idea gets wings and that players in other events do a similar thing either Saturday night or in the coming years.
"Maybe we can start with the Hardest Shot and next year maybe it can be all of them," said Chara, who would donate the $18,000 to his charity, Right to Play. "Maybe it can even be in the game. If every guy put $1,000 we would have $42,000 to put into something. We can make it really exciting and really big. Maybe fans can get involved, too. It would be awesome to have something like that going on."
Lecavalier, who would likely donate the $18,000 to the Vincent Lecavalier Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at the new All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla., finished second to Chara last year in Atlanta with a top blast of 101.9 miles per hour. Chara won by ripping a 103.2-mph shot.
Lecavalier doesn't think he can beat the big guy this year, either.
"I think he made that challenge because he knows he's going to win," Lecavalier told NHL.com. "I don't think I can beat him. I'll give it my best, but I don't think it's going to be enough."
Souray, sidelined last season due to injury, does think he can take Chara.
Edmonton's rocket man registered a 106.7 on the radar gun at the Oilers' SuperSkills Competition earlier this month. According to the Edmonton broadcasters, it was an unofficial record for hardest shot ever recorded.
Apparently, Chad Kilger once hit 106.6 on the radar.
Souray admitted to NHL.com that he did say, "Put my name on" the trophy that goes to the NHL Cisco Hardest Shot winner "and send it along." Friday, though, he said Chara "is the king. He'd be the guy you would have to favor."
The hardest shot ever in the NHL SuperSkills competition came off Al Iafrate's stick in 1993. The former Washington Capitals defenseman unloaded a 105.2-mph blast at the Montreal Forum 16 years ago.
Now the six shooters will be firing away not only to top Iafrate's record, but also to benefit their own charity.
Streit, Komisarek and Weber each called themselves major underdogs.
When asked what charity he would give the money to, Weber said, "I don't know. We'll see. I have to win it first. I'm sure the competitive juices will be flowing."
"I'm not as big as those guys," the 6-foot Streit added.
"If I was a betting man, I wouldn't put money on myself," Komisarek said.
Only, this time he did, but at least it's for something worthwhile.
"Any time you can take a competition like this, make a little friendly wager and make it a positive," Komisarek said, "that's a great thing."Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author: Dan Rosen | NHL.com Staff Writer