Happy Birthday Zdeno Chara. (Mar. 18, 1977) In honor of his 40th we have pulled this little nugget from The Hockey Writers Archives.
Zdeno Chara graces the cover of the 2011-12 NHL Media Guide, hoisting the Stanley Cup at Rogers Arena centre ice with his massive maw stretched wide in a triumphant scream. (Understandably, the Vancouver Canucks were one of the teams that took advantage of the NHL’s policy allowing individual teams to pay for local versions of the guide to have a different cover. But I digress.)
Chara is no ordinary giant. He’s got brain, this fella, he’s got heart. For example, according to the Boston Bruins website, Zdeno Chara speaks Slovak, Czech, Polish, Russian, German, Swedish and English. The big man has collected many accolades over his career – to celebrate His Hugeness, I give you:
Seven Things about Zdeno Chara
1) You have to start with his size. Because, uh, there’s a lot of it. Chara’s height is listed at 2.06 metres. That’s 6’9” if you prefer imperial – SIX FOOT FRICKIN’ NINE – which makes him the tallest man to ever lace up skates in the NHL. He’s listed at 118 kilograms, or 260 pounds. Does anyone know how to say OMFG in Slovak?
2) The New York Islanders drafted Chara 56th overall, during the third round of the 1996 NHL Entry Draft. There were seven Slovak players selected that year, of which Chara is the only one to make a significant impact in the league.
After four so-so seasons with the Islanders, Chara was traded by Mad Mike Milbury (along with Bill Muckalt and a first-round draft pick) to the Ottawa Senators for Alexei Yashin. In the Canadian capital ZC emerged as one of the league’s best rearguards, and helped lead the Sens to the 2003 Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top regular season team. He signed with the Boston Bruins as a high-profile unrestricted free agent in 2006 – the rest is Beantown sports history.
(By the way, you think Chara for Yashin was a win for the Sens straight up? That first-round pick wound up being 2nd overall, because, well, the Isles stank the joint out that year. Too bad, because that pick turned out to be Jason freakin’ Spezza.)
3) Chara is just the second European born and trained player to captain an NHL team to a Stanley Cup championship, after Niklas Lidstrom did it in 2008. Chara is the first-ever player born behind the Iron Curtain to do so.
He was born on March 18, 1977 in Trencin, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia), also the hometown of New York Rangers forward Marian Gaborik and childhood home of Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa. When he was named the captain of the Boston Bruins in 2006, Chara was the third Slovak-born player to wear the C for an NHL team. He joined that club with Hall of Fame forwards Peter Stastny (Quebec Nordiques) and Stan Mikita (Chicago Blackhawks).
Chara’s Stanley Cup, which he took back to Trencin to celebrate during the 2011 off-season, joins a Norris Trophy, which he took home as the NHL’s top defenseman in 2009, on the mantelpiece. He was awarded the Mark Messier Leadership Award after the Cup win, and has played in five NHL All-Star Games in his career. He also led the NHL in +/- in both the regular season (+33) in 2010-11 and afterward in the playoffs (+16). He owns the record for the hardest shot in an All-Star competition, letting loose with a rocket clocked at 170.43 kilometres per hour (or 105.9 miles per hour for American readers).
5) Chara is, literally, a huge cycling enthusiast. He bikes as part of his training regimen, and has more than once ridden a handful of stages of the Tour de France course. In Bicycling Magazine, he said, “We pick either the Alps or the Pyrenees. After we ride each [stage], we wait for the racers to come. I’ve been one of those guys running alongside the riders, trying to push them up the hill a little.” Just imagine slogging through an uphill section of the frickin’ Tour de France, and seeing Charzilla run at you with arms wide open, screaming “Go! Go! Go!” at you in seven languages.
6) You can’t talk about Zdeno Chara without at least a passing reference to the incident with Max Pacioretty.
Chara pushed the speedy Montreal Canadiens forward during a neutral zone race for the puck in a late-season game in March of 2011. Pacioretty’s head contacted a thinly padded stanchion at the end of the bench, resulting in a serious concussion and a fracture of his fourth cervical vertebra.
Chara was not given further discipline than the five-minute major penalty assessed by on-ice officials, resulting in an outcry about player conduct from fans, community groups and even some government officials. A criminal investigation was instigated by Montreal police, but in the end, Chara was not charged.
This incident, along with the January 2011 concussion suffered by Sidney Crosby, helped to put headshots and brain trauma on a much bigger stage – stakeholder complaints about NHL inaction on injurious plays inspired the 2011 off-season appointment of Brendan Shanahan as the league’s handler of suspensions.
7) Zdeno Chara, of course, is the star of Charzilla vs the Mothra Twins, a spectacular, special effects-laden epic:
Jason Kurylo is the creator and co-host of Pucked in the Head, a hockey podcast with listeners on four continents, and blog that balances knowledgeable hockey analysis with an admittedly bent sense of humour. When he is not memorizing useless hockey trivia, Jason can be found making googly eyes at his wife Nadia and young daughter Milla. He is almost certainly eating a chewy nougat-filled treat at the very moment that you read this.
Did you like this article? Jason has also profiled these other two Boston Bruins. You may recognize their names. They’re on the Stanley Cup and everything: