PRAGUE -- Boston practiced Monday at Tesla Arena, the home of Sporting Praha, one of the most famous clubs in Czech ice hockey.
Defenseman Zdeno Chara, from nearby Slovakia, played one season of junior hockey with Praha, his final season in Europe. The following season -- 1996-97 -- he left for Prince George, B.C. and the Western Hockey League, beginning a North American hockey adventure that has continued to this day.
As expected, Monday's return to an old stomping ground brought back a flood of memories for the Boston captain.
And despite being in demand by Czech and Slovak media all morning, Chara took a few minutes out of a busy session to chat exclusively with NHL.com Monday.
NHL.com: You played in this building during your time in Prague before you came to North America, right?
Chara: I play some part of junior over here, probably four or five months, so it was nice to come back. Like I have been saying, it is not my first time back since I left, but those memories will always be with me, so it's been nice.
NHL.com: Do you get a sense of how far your career has come and how far you have been when you come back here as an NHL player and return to your roots?
Chara: I do in some sense. But I don't want to get caught up in that thinking. Obviously, I want to continue to improve and get better. Still, my goal is to win the Stanley Cup with this team. I am always pushing my goals ahead and even further. Once I am probably done playing hockey, then I will probably go back and think about it more often. Right now, I'm just focusing on what is ahead me rather than what has been done.
NHL.com: Is it nice to show some of these guys at least part of your roots?
Chara: It is nice. Any time I can show guys things or show them around a little bit, it's always nice to help out. I'm sure guys recognize it is one of the best cities in Europe for sight-seeing, walking around, food and all that stuff. Prague is very much Americanized, so they can probably get anything they would like and what they are used to getting in North America.
NHL.com: What about all the attention you have gotten on this trip from the media, especially since arriving in Prague?
Big Z is a big hit in Prague (Brian Babineau)
Chara: I'm fine with it. I realize that I am closer to my home and there will be a little more interviews and things to do. It's just part of it, something that comes with (this trip). It doesn't bother me and I'm more than happy to help everybody out and do whatever I have to do. It's something I know that I have to be part of.
NHL.com: You couldn't get somebody to raise the door into the dressing room for you now that you are an NHL star?
Chara: Those doors have been here for I don't know how many years; I don't think they are going to make it fit for me. This building hasn't changed. They updated and made a little nicer locker room, but it is the same building.
NHL.com: I really like this building. It is so interesting. It must be loud when Sparta Praha plays here?
Chara: It used to be even better. It was such a good building. Once they built that O2 Arena, that became the main building and this became secondary.