At 6-foot-9, 255-pounds and possessing a record setting 108.8 mph slap shot, Zdeno Chara
's game notes bio reads like the answers you'd get if you asked NHL general managers to list the qualities they'd like in the perfect defenseman.
Impressive 136-315-451 totals in 999 career games just add to the growing legend of the Bruins captain. However, the hockey people who know him best, Boston's players and coaches, make it clear that Chara's true worth transcends even those numbers and tell the real story of how the Slovakian defenseman stands just one step from a true milestone - 1000 NHL games.
"I knew Zee from junior hockey, and I can say that when he was in juniors, his game wasn’t the greatest thing," said B's alternate captain Andrew Ference
. "So, for him to make the NHL was a big accomplishment. I know how much work it took, and to get to the status that he is know and the minutes that he’s played and the length of time he’s been in the league, I just know how hard he’s worked; on the ice with the minutes, off the ice with the countless, countless hours.
"If there was a picture of dedication and work, it’s him. All the kudos in the world, because a lot of the hard work goes unseen and it’s an incredible amount."
|A record-breaking shot... |
That hard work might go unseen to most fans, but it is not missed by his head coach who marvels at the stamina and consistency the hours in the gym and on the ice have given his captain. But like Ference, Claude Julien made mention that Chara isn't simply a great athlete, but is also a great leader.
"His conditioning is second to none," said Julien. "He’s very impressive in a lot of areas, because everything he does, he does for the team first. He’s never been one to look at his stats, or personal accomplishments. He wants to do things for the organization, and as far as I’m concerned he was such a great acquisition to this organization when they needed a person like Zdeno to come in the dressing room and take charge.
"He’s taken a lot of pride in that, he’s gotten better every year and at the same time, he’s just kind of blossomed into a real great captain and every year you see him continuing to grow no matter what his age is. He wants to continue to get better, he wants to continue to learn, he wants to be better on the ice, better off the ice.
"He’s a great athlete to work with, just because he brings that presence to the dressing room," continued Julien. "Not only that, he’s very supportive of what the coaching staff wants to do and he carries that into the dressing room and makes sure that everybody’s on the same page."
|Wtih the Cup |
B's left wing Milan Lucic
says that Chara's dedication sets the standard in and around the B's locker room.
"He plays hard every night, and he plays like a warrior and that’s what you expect out of your captain," said Lucic. "Especially in today’s day and age, it’s so hard to keep yourself healthy and to achieve a goal like this, because guys being bigger, stronger and faster. Guys getting injured. so it just goes to show for him as a captain and as a leader, that he does whatever he can to keep himself healthy and in shape."
"He’s one of those guys that puts everything on the line and he’s going to give you his best every night," added Lucic. "He’s one of those guys that leads by example and takes the bull by the horns and he’s going to make that big hit. He gets a lot of shots, and he’s got that ability from the backhand to score a big goal and lift a team up with emotions.
"It’s been a lot of fun playing with him for the last five years."
And everyone asked about Chara's accomplishment noted that they wouldn't be shocked to see "Zee" just keep going.
"If I had to over-under Zee, pride alone is going to take him well into the thousands," said Ference. "I know he has a lot of respect for [Mark Recchi] and everything he’s accomplished, and we’ve talked a lot, especially over the last couple months of just how much it means to him."
"Obviously in a lot of people’s minds, especially as a young guy it’s one of the biggest milestones you could reach," said Lucic in agreement. "It just goes to show that he’s been a good player for a long time, and he’s been able to keep himself healthy and been able to play at a high level.
"We all know how many minutes he plays, and it’s a huge accomplishment for him and it’s great to be his teammate and see him achieve this."