When the Bruins named defenseman Zdeno Chara
their captain, they knew they were gaining an outstanding leader. And it seems the rest of the hockey world agrees, as Chara was today named one of three finalists for the Mark Messier Leadership Award.
The award is presented by Hall of Famer Mark Messier to honor an individual who leads by positive example through on-ice performance, motivation of team members and a dedication to community activities and charitable causes.
Chara, who was drafted 56th overall in the 1996 draft by the New York Islanders, led the entire NHL this season with a plus/minus rating of plus- 33.
“I don’t think there’s a player in the league that has improved as much as this guy,” Messier said. “Him coming to Boston and starting the rebuilding program here for the Bruins and here they are...five years later and they’re challenging for the Stanley Cup themselves.”
At 6’9”, Chara is the tallest player ever to play in the NHL. Combined with his 255 pounds of defensive brawn and he is a force to be reckoned with. With this great size, he added to his defensive contribution with 153 hits, 111 blocked shots and 32 takeaways.
“A blend of incredible size, strength and talent,” Messier said. “He is the true leader of the Boston Bruins. He has a tremendous amount of respect around the league.”
Since being signed as a free agent by the B’s in 2006, “Big Zee” has led his squad to the playoffs in all but his first season wearing the Spoked-B sweater.
As the Black & Gold’s number one defenseman, Chara is faced with the task of defending each opponents’ top line and has increased his impressive on-ice time from a team high 25:26 to 28:17 in the playoffs, the third highest amongst playoff skaters.
Number 33 is also an active leader off the ice. As an athletic ambassador for Right to Play, he is a frequent contributor to charities and remains heavily involved in community outreach.
“More importantly are his endeavors off the ice and his charity and the way that he gives himself to the charity,” added Messier. “Well deserving honor for him to be one of the three finalists.”
The award winner will be announced at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas on Wednesday, June 22nd. ---John Smith