With the sudden news of young superstar Charlie McAvoy recovering from an abnormality in his heart, the Bruins will once again be playing with one man down. The big difference with this year’s Bruins team is how much depth they have on the bench. With the tremendous amount of talent being developed at the NHL and AHL level, Coach Bruce Cassidy has smartly paired up veterans alongside the first year players. One of those veterans is Captain Zdeno Chara.
A towering force at 6”9”, Zdeno Chara has secured the admiration of both teammates and the NHL as both an intimidating defenseman and role model. The amount of value and experience he shares with the younger players comes from playing in the NHL for the past two decades. Fellow teammates gain confidence when they have Big Z on their side. They see Chara as both a mentor and “big brother”. Back in April, McAvoy had this to say:
“.. To put a guy with less experience like myself, or a guy like Brandon Carlo, and put him with a guy like that [CHARA], who just has so much experience, has had such a storied career. It’s easy to see why they do that, to help that transition become easier for someone like myself. I’m just very thankful to have the opportunity today to be able to practice with him…He’s just such an amazing player and the leader of this team.”
For Chara, fulfilling that role of mentor is nothing new. Early on in his career with the B’s, he was paired up with veteran Dennis Seidenberg before playing alongside a nineteen year old fresh-faced Dougie Hamilton. Last season, Chara once again played along side a young rookie: Brandon Carlo. This season, BU alum Charlie McAvoy has been his new student.
One of the many talking points about this year’s Boston Bruins team is how every single line has been productive. The team’s penalty kill becomes instantly improved when Chara is on the ice. In other words, he’s gotten the Bruins out of a few jams. During a recent game against the Montreal Canadiens, the Bruins saw them selves in a five on three situation. Being responsible for starting every penalty kill, Chara had already been on the ice for almost two minutes when both Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo put in the penalty box. And because of Chara’s toughness and skill the Canadiens never came close to scoring during the two power plays.
For any New England fan, NFL QB Tom Brady is one of the greatest athletes of all time. And at forty years old, keeps defying odds and silencing his critics. But for any hockey fan, the Bruins have their own age-defying player. Being the biggest player to ever play in the NHL, forty year old Chara is still clocking an impressive amount of time on ice. He averages over twenty-three minutes each game. No workload is too heavy for the Slovakian native. He’s the guy that just loves to play hockey:
“..I love everything about it. I love the sacrifice. I love the pain that goes with it. Love playing with young guys. Love playing with older guys.”
And for Chara, this means no real timetable as to when he’ll retire from the organization. However one thing’s for sure- he’d like to retire a Bruin.
“I take a lot of pride in my offseason training and being ready for every season…I want to still be very effective, get better, improve, maintain my game, and keep adding to my game..it’s still beautiful to have players staying with one team and retiring with that team.”
Keep playing Big Z. Boston will miss you when you’re gone.
Follow Liz Rizzo on Twitter: @pastagrl88
Cover photo courtesy of AP Photo/Charles Krupa.