When thinking about former NHL defender and future Hall of Famer Zdeno Chara, one word should come to mind. That word, as you might have guessed, is big. Whether it’s his big stature, his contributions to the team, or his contributions to the city he played hockey in, everything about Chara screams “big.”
It’s for that reason that a player nearly seven feet tall deserves an article highlighting seven things about him that every hockey fan should know.
1. Chara Is a Large Human Being
As mentioned, the first word that should come to mind when talking about Zdeno Chara should be “big.” With that in mind, what better point to start this list off with than the fact that Chara is 6-foot-9 and weighs 250 pounds?
Players don’t get much bigger than Chara, and while he may not have had the highest body mass index in the league, his sheer presence on the ice was enough to instill fear in his competition. No list of Chara facts would be complete without reminding you that he’s big, he’s strong, and he made your life miserable on the ice.
2. Chara Was Originally a New York Islander
This may seem obvious to some, but many forget that Chara originally started his career as a member of the New York Islanders.
Taken with the 56th overall pick in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft, Chara was one of the oldest players going in the league when he retired. It’s impressive then, that he still looked as good as he did on the ice despite his accelerated age.
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While playing with the Islanders, Chara scored six goals and 28 points in 231 games over four years. It was a fairly long stretch in New York, especially considering how few people probably remember that the giant played on Long Island at all.
When people think about Chara’s time prior to his decade-plus stint in Boston, the team typically associated with him is the Ottawa Senators. That comes with good reason as well, and it leads directly to the next point on this list.
3. Chara Was Part of a Blockbuster Trade
Everybody loves a good blockbuster trade in professional sports. Well, sometimes fans of the teams involved in those trades aren’t quite as happy about the outcome as those watching from the outside, but I digress.
When Mike Milbury and the New York Islanders swung a trade to acquire star forward Alexei Yashin from the Ottawa Senators, the deal created a huge ripple in the NHL. Chara was the main player sent in the deal, though the Senators also acquired Bill Muckalt and a first-round draft selection. That draft pick would be the second-overall selection in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. A pick that the Senators would use to select a franchise player in Jason Spezza.
Yashin went on to perform well for the Islanders with 119 goals and 290 points in 346 games in New York. Unfortunately, Yashin left for the KHL following the 2006-07 season while the Senators got to enjoy Spezza until the 2013-14 season. Chara, on the other hand, eventually joined the Bruins, became their captain, and led the team to a Stanley Cup. He also won a Norris Trophy and the Mark Messier Leadership Award in the process.
4. Chara Making European History
When Chara won a Stanley Cup in Boston, he accomplished something that only one other European-born player had done in history. Joining the ranks of Niklas Lidstrom who had done so in 2008, Chara became only the second European-born and -trained player to captain an NHL team to a Stanley Cup victory. In fact, Chara, Lidstrom, Alex Ovechkin, and Gabriel Landeskog remain the only three players in history to have done so.
Born in Trencin, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia), Chara has had a storied friendship with former stars Marian Gaborik and Marian Hossa since they all grew up in the same town. While both Gaborik and Hossa won Stanley Cups, neither of them did so as the captains of their team.
It’s an impressive accolade for Chara who also has the distinction of being only the third Slovakian-born player to ever wear the “C” in the NHL. The two players to do so before him? Hall of Fame forwards Peter Stastny with the Quebec Nordiques and Stan Mikita with the Chicago Blackhawks. It’s safe to say Chara will eventually become a first-ballot Hall of Fame player as well, should he ever choose to retire.
5. Chara Probably Speaks More Languages Than You Do
While Chara was an excellent hockey player and a future Hall of Fame defender, he is also one of the most multilingual players you’ll ever find in professional sports. Fluent in Slovak, Czech, Polish, Russian, German, Swedish and of course English, Chara has made it a point throughout his life to learn as much as he possibly could.
Speaking more than one language is a challenge in and of itself, and while there are some distinct similarities between many of the languages Chara can speak, that doesn’t change how impressive his learning skills are. Being fluent in seven languages doesn’t just happen by accident, either. To get to that point, an individual has to really study to pick up the intricacies of a language such as intonation, grammar, conjugation and more.
Now that he has retired, he has the potential to speak any language he wants. That could be helpful when considering the seventh point on this list.
6. Chara Has a Real Estate License
Hall of Fame career, Stanley Cup champion, fluent in seven languages, and a licensed realtor? What can’t Chara do?
When Chara tore a ligament in his left knee on Oct. 23 in 2014, the big man was put into unfamiliar territory. Instead of playing hockey with his teammates, he would be forced to rehab his knee in hopes of making a return to the league – not an easy feat. for a player who was already 37 years old at that time.
Rather than just sitting around all day, Chara decided to continue his learning ways with his newly open schedule.
“I like to keep as many doors open as possible for the future,” Chara said at the time. “I just felt that while I was obviously not traveling as much with the team, I had so much time, especially early into my rehab, I decided to take some courses and I ended up going for the [exam].”
With a real estate license in hand, Chara’s ability to speak seven languages could help him make a sale or two to potential buyers who don’t speak English. Still, when Chara retires, it’s unlikely he’ll have to work another day in his life. Real estate, however, could become his new hobby.
7. Chara Has an Instagram Page
A new development in the world of social media, Chara has created an Instagram page that has become the talk of the town.
Rivaling former New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who has created a successful Facebook page in his own right, Chara’s Instagram gained traction quickly. With posts highlighting his love for his children, mother, teammates, and peers, Chara’s Instagram is a sight to behold.
In a world where social media drives the narratives that we see as a society, Chara’s innocence on this platform is truly heartwarming and refreshing. It seems that every player has some form or another of social media nowadays, but Chara’s ability to create such a unique presence on Instagram at 40-plus years old takes the cake.
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It’s a rare look behind the curtain at one of the NHL’s biggest players in history, both in stature and in career success. While he was a physical force on the ice, he’s a gentle giant in his personal life. A gentle giant who just wants to tell those important to him that he cares. What more can we ask from a person than that?