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Chara takes aim at Hardest Shot immortality

by Phil Coffey
The event is officially called the Cisco NHL Hardest Shot competition, but could just as easily be labeled the "So, you think I have a fun job" competition.

The NHL Goaltenders union has a point. Watching an array of All-Stars crank away to see how has the hardest shot gives you an appreciation of how tough -- and daft! -- their jobs are.

Since the net is mercifully empty for this competition, perhaps Barcoloungers and umbrella drinks should be served to the masked men as they watch the goings-on.

This time around, Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara will be looking for his third straight win after cranking out shots of 103.1 mph in 2008 and 100.4 in 2007.

"It does (feel good to defend the title) because there is a lot of pressure and guys really want to win that event," Chara said after winning in Atlanta. "It's probably one of the most exciting events at the All-Star (festivities). So, yeah, it's good."

Chara didn't have an easy time last season. His first blast didn't register on the radar, and Tampa Bay's Vinny Lecavalier was hawking his every shot with some prodigious drives of his own, including a 101.9 mph blast that led the competition for quite a spell.

After Chara registered 101.4 on his first shot, a full mile-per-hour faster than his winning blast the previous year in Dallas, Lecavalier figured his 101.9 wasn't going to stand.

"After his first shot he got 101.4, so I said I know his next shot is going to be harder," Lecavalier said. "It doesn't matter. We're on the same team and we won the event."

Chara is the League's largest player ever at 6-foot-9 and 250 pounds, and he put every last inch and pound into his second blast, thanks to a fast stride and his explosive legs. The key, though, was keeping the shot close to the ice.

"The first one didn't feel really good. I went too high, but the meter didn't give us any measurement and I got another two," Chara said. "I knew I had to go a little lower and use more of my body. You can't go really high. You have to keep it probably as low as 10 inches off the ice."

Chara, though, still hasn't come close to topping Al Iafrate's mind-blowing 105.2 mph slapper that he ripped at the 1993 Skills Competition at The Forum in Montreal. Chara isn't sure if he'll ever top that one.

"I would like to, but I don't know if it will ever be broken," Chara said. "Back then they skated into the shot all the way from the red line. We have to start at the blue line. It would be nice to get it done, but it will be very hard to do it."

Hardest Shot winners
2008 Zdeno Chara 103.1 mph
2007 Zdeno Chara 100.4 mph
2004 Adrian Aucoin 102.2 mph
2003 Al MacInnis 98.9 mph
2002 Sergei Fedorov 101.5 mph
2001 Fredrik Modin 102.1 mph
2000 Al MacInnis 100.1 mph
1999  Al MacInnis 98.5 mph
1998  Al MacInnis 100.4 mph
1997  Al MacInnis 98.9 mph
1996  Dave Manson 98.0 mph
1994  Al Iafrate 102.7 mph
1993  Al Iafrate 105.2 mph
1992  Al MacInnis 93.0 mph
1991  Al MacInnis 94.0 mph
1990  Al Iafrate 96.0 mph

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