I'm just wondering if you've obviously looked around at all the movement around the Eastern Conference and all the whole NHL, and I know it's going to take a while, but who do you see as favorites in the Eastern Conference at this point? Zdeno Chara:
It's really hard to say because all those changes, it's not really to say. You never know. Things can really come together. You might have a favorite team that might not do well and then you have some surprises, so I think it's just too early to say. Q.
Could you tell me, did you spend some early time in Edmonton before you got to the National Hockey League, and I understand you maybe lived with Jonathan Aitken's parents? Zdeno Chara:
Yeah, I did. I came actually right before the draft in '96, and right after the draft I spent actually two summers in Edmonton and worked out over there. It was really nice of them to let me to stay in their house. It was a good summer because I really enjoyed Edmonton, the city, and I made some new friends, and also we worked really hard at the University over there with Pete Friesen, who is currently with Carolina. Q.
Would you have got more interest in the National Hockey League if you had played on the Slovak national teams before the draft? Zdeno Chara:
I didn't play in any national teams before I was drafted. I basically I started playing for men's national team after I was drafted, after I started to play in the NHL. Q.
I was in the Ottawa locker room last year doing a story on Meszaros, and I watched the way you teased him, and basically you like kept him in line a little bit, sort of like this is the way a pro behaves and stuff like that. I was wondering if you've had a chance to work with any of the young Bruins players this year in their development and what you're thinking of the progress, what you like about some of the younger players? Have you seen Kessel? Zdeno Chara:
I've seen Kessel, yeah. We skated together with a whole bunch of guys. We started to skate probably, what, two weeks ago here in Boston, in Wilmington, the practice facility, and I could tell that this player is pretty skilled and pretty gifted, and he's got really sweet hands and a lot of moves. I think he has a pretty good chance to make the team. We'll see what the coaching staff's decision is on him. But yeah, there's been a few young players who I think have good potential in this game or the National Hockey League. Q.
I know there's a lot of interest in Lashoff, too. Have you had a chance to skate with him? Zdeno Chara:
No, I haven't. Most of the rookies just arrived two days prior to the start of training camp. They basically have training camp right now and they're going to start deciding who is going to make it to the main training camp and I'll skate with them probably on Wednesday or Thursday. Q.
You signed very, very quickly after the July 1st deadline, and I know there were a lot of teams in the mix that were interested in you. I know Edmonton was one of them. Maybe describe how much of a whirlwind it was before you decided on the Boston Bruins. Zdeno Chara:
Well, it was pretty hectic for sure. I tried to prepare for that day, shortly after I found out it was not going to work out with Ottawa. You try to prepare as much as you can, but until that day or the first moment the phone call came, the expectations were kind of high, and I was really nervous because you never know. It was my first time in that position. Several teams from which I received the phone calls, there was probably about 16 teams looking for interest, and I think probably seven of them made it through to the final, and from that point it was really, hard. The reason I decided with Boston Bruins is after speaking to Dave Lewis it really made sense. We had a lot of things in common, and I really felt that this team has a good core, and I signed the same day, I thought it was a good mix of guys. Q.
Did you sense that Ottawa just wasn't going to work out anymore and that they wanted to go in a different direction? Zdeno Chara:
Yeah, I sensed that. I've been in the league for ten years, and you get the feeling that they made their decision and they decided to go the other way, which I was kind of surprised, but at the same time, I understand it's a new NHL, it's new rules, and you have to live with that. Q.
When you look back at your time in Ottawa, does it amaze you even now that you left that city without a championship with all the talent that was there year after year? Zdeno Chara:
Yeah, for sure. It's something that is kind of sad that with the team and the players we had over the years, we didn't go a little further or all the way. One year we were really, really close, we were in the semis, but then we lost in game 7 in the last minute or two of the game. And then all the other years were pretty much a big disappointment because we didn't go far. It just didn't happen for some reason, and for sure it's something when I look back, it is sad, but it's something that's in the past, and I'm not trying to think about it too much. Q.
Looking ahead, October 28th Ottawa comes to Boston, your first meeting against your former team. What do you think that's going to be like? Are you going to try and shut out the past and try and be as business like as possible? Zdeno Chara:
For me it's going to be business as usual. I'm going to play hard and I'm sure they're going to play hard. We have a game to play, and for sure both sides are going to try to win the game, very much down to business. Q.
You were obviously part of a very impressive defensive corps in Ottawa. What do you think of the defensive group in Boston? Zdeno Chara:
I think that we have a very good mix of guys. I think that the guys that are here are guys who can skate, that have good size. They have some experience, so I really believe that this group has obviously it's good enough to be a really solid corps on this team. Q.
Who do you think are the top five defensive groups in the whole NHL? Zdeno Chara:
It's tough to pick five guys because there's a lot, a lot of good you mean the lines or the defensemen? Q.
The top five defensive units for the teams. Zdeno Chara:
Oh, for the teams? Just like I said, it's probably too early to say with all the changes this summer. Some of the teams I don't even know who they have left or who they brought new. I'd have to take a closer look. I don't know. Q.
Have you spoken yet with Peter Chiarelli or with Dave Lewis about the captaincy of the team, and would you be willing to be the captain? Zdeno Chara:
Well, I haven't spoke to them about captaincy. I mean, it's totally up to the management and obviously the coaches who they're going to decide on. But if that's something that's going to happen, for sure it's something that I'd be really proud of and it would be a huge honor. You know, I'd been assistant captain with the Islanders and with Ottawa, so I have the experience to be the leader. But for sure if it's something that will happen, then it would be a huge honor and I'll try to do my best, try to lead on and off the ice and try to be a good example with what I do best, and that would be my work ethic and play the game hard and give all that I have every game. Q.
I was also wondering what was the toughest aspect of the Bruins team last year that gave Ottawa so many problems in the second half of the season? Zdeno Chara:
Well, I think that they did a really good job of shutting down our top players. They put down a few players on offense, and once you shut down that line, it's kind of hard to play. Obviously they did a really good job at it. For some reason they got really, really motivated for games when we played against them, so they did a good job against us last year. Q.
I'm just wondering, I know that you've been skating with a group of guys in Wilmington for a good amount of time now, at least a couple of weeks, and I'm wondering what kind of sense you have of the mood of this group now as it finally gets to the main training camp? Are they excited to get started, and what's their outlook and your outlook as camp is about to start? Zdeno Chara:
Well, I think that everybody is coming to town and everybody is preparing for the training camp. A lot of guys have already done the testing earlier, before training camp, and obviously with the changes we made, there's a lot of new guys and we've tried to get to know each other and have fun. The past two weeks we've been skating together and kind of getting known to each other. But I think that everybody is really excited for the beginning of the season. I think it's the same feeling in the league. Every team is excited to start the season and begin to play. Same over here, everybody is looking forward to it. Q.
You mentioned all the changes. Very few of the guys coming into this team have played for Dave Lewis. I imagine you're pretty curious to see what it's like, what he has in mind as far as systems and how he is to play for, things like that? Zdeno Chara:
Well, I think that Dave is a very experienced coach. He was with Detroit when they won championships, and he knows what it takes, so I'm sure he's got a pretty good idea or a pretty good program in his mind what he would like to do with us for the training camp and the game plan. I'm sure that he knows what he's doing, so we'll just have to listen to it and follow his instructions on the ice. Q.
A couple of questions. One, have you noticed with the new rules that your size isn't as beneficial, that you can't do some things you used to do but now with the new rules the referees are looking at you a little differently, and two, what was it like playing juniors in Prince George? Zdeno Chara:
Playing juniors in Prince George was fun. It was my first year in North America. I really enjoyed that everything was kind of new. We had a good group of guys. I always try to bring the memories back. I keep in touch with my teammates from Prince George, and I can speak highly about my experience in my first year. I had a lot of fun and we played well, and it was a really good experience my first year. About the rules, I mean, it's a change that you have to accept. For sure they may try to make the game more exciting for fans, and you can't blame them. I think that the forwards have a little bit of advantage over defensemen, but you just really have to work hard on your foot speed and quickness and be in the right position to try to avoid the authorities. It's just a change you have to accept. Q.
I was going to ask a captaincy question and you obviously answered that, but just maybe you can elaborate, just if they gave you the opportunity, you wouldn't turn it down, for instance? Zdeno Chara:
If I would what? Q.
If they gave you the opportunity to be captain, you'd jump at that, you'd accept that? Zdeno Chara:
Well, yeah, if that's something that would happen, then for sure I would accept it. As I said, it would be a huge honor. To have the captaincy and the capability of being a leader on the team, for sure that's something that as a kid growing up would be only a dream but now would become true. For sure I would like to lead by my best abilities and capabilities, just like I said, on and off the ice with my work ethic and dedication and drive. We'll see what the outcome is going to be, and I can't really say much more.