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Bruins teammates played role in Chara's decision

by Matt Kalman

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Daniel Day-Lewis is among a long list of famed actors who are known for becoming so devoted to playing a role they refuse to break character even when the cameras aren't rolling.

Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara is so dedicated to being the leader of his team that he didn't break character even when presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity from sports leaders in his native Slovakia.

A couple months back Chara was told he was chosen to be Slovakia's flag bearer at the opening ceremony at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Thanks to the support of his teammates and Bruins management, he will be marching during the festivities.

Being asked to carry his nation's flag at the opening ceremony of the Olympics is a unique honor, but for Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, it meant checking with his teammates first to make sure they were OK with the unique situation it would present. (Photo: Getty Images)

"I was pleased and I was very excited and happy. Overwhelmed I would say," Chara said. "But first I was for sure a skeptic about it. Then I was very glad that it worked out."

Chara's skepticism about the situation developed from the timing of the ceremony, scheduled for Feb. 7. The Bruins are scheduled to play at the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 6 and the Ottawa Senators at home Feb. 8. The longtime Bruins captain couldn't desert his teammates for two games without their blessing.

"I spoke to a few guys before I even asked management," Chara said. "So I wanted to make sure that they were going to be OK with that; the team, the management, the organization is going to be OK with that. Before I even made the decision for myself I asked them. And then I made the decision. So it wasn't like I kind of chose it and wanted to see how they would react. And once I saw that they would all be fine and support it …"

Bruins alternate captain Patrice Bergeron chuckled when asked about the notion that Chara would even consider turning down an offer from his homeland based on the reaction of his teammates.

"I think it's great. When I heard about it I thought it was great news. I thought it was well-deserved," said Bergeron, who will represent Canada in Sochi. "It's something he's going to remember for the rest of his life. It's a huge honor to carry the flag for his country. It's special and I'm very happy for him."

Although Chara participated in two prior Olympics and he's been performing on the world stage at the height of his profession for more than a decade, being the focal point of his entire nation's Olympic delegation in front of thousands of people in attendance and millions more viewing around the world is much different than playing suffocating defense. Nonetheless, Chara said he's not nervous, just excited.

The ceremony will give Chara a chance to reconnect with some skiers and bobsledders he's met in the past and meet many of the other athletes. Chara's friends and family will be watching this year's ceremony closer than in the past. In particular, Chara's father Zdenek, an Olympic Greco-Roman wrestler in his heyday, can't wait to see his son carry the Slovakian flag.

"He's super excited and very proud and honored," the younger Chara said. "I'm kind of excited for him, too, because he's been a part of the Olympics and I know how much that means to him."

The Bruins will try to pick up four points in the standings without their leader in ice time (24:58). Chara has 13 goals and 25 points in 53 games.

"For sure we're going to miss him," Bergeron said. "That's a definite. But I think it's for a great opportunity and a great situation. We've got to step up as a team and do the job. He always does that for us, so we've got to do the same thing."

Coach Claude Julien will be tasked with piecing together a defense corps and devising a game plan that makes up for the huge absence. However, Julien said those are chores he's more than willing to do in such a unique case and for someone who's given so much to the Bruins over the years.

"For what this guy has done for our organization and the honor that it represents, to carry the flag for your country, how can you not support that opportunity?" Julien said. "So we're doing a job here. It wouldn't be different if he was injured. I'd rather send him there knowing that he's healthy and he's getting rest versus having a guy injured in your lineup not knowing when he's going to come back. So we're not under bad circumstances; we're under good circumstances with him."

Chara consistently puts the team's success ahead of his own like any great supporting actor. This starring role is a just reward from Slovakia and the Bruins.

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