When someone needs to extinguish problems quickly, they should call Zdeno Chara. The giant Bruins’ captain did not excel statistically in this year’s playoffs, but his flawless defensive coverage played a huge role in the Bruins’ Stanley Cup victory.
Chara recently returned to his native country and noted minor traffic problems, but was clearly satisfied to be home. The NHL’s first Slovak captain, who lifted sports’ most famous trophy above his head back in June, has no time to rest with the frenzied celebration thrilling his hometown of Trencin.
Chara’s arrival was anything but smooth – delayed flights and baggage – but finally, everything went well.
“The return felt great,” Chara said. “The last few days there was a lot of travelling, but I’m glad that I am at home and can focus on my family’s arrival and the Cup celebration. Fortunately, many people helped me with the organization.”
Chara originally wanted to share the celebration with his Czech teammates from Boston, Tomas Kaberle and David Krejci, but wasn’t able to because of the tight schedule.
“At first we tried, but unfortunately it did not work,” Chara said. “If there were more days, it would be possible, but it’s too crowded, and everyone wants to do some celebrating with his closest friends and family.”
Before he met with his family, Chara managed to welcome some players from the Slovakian national team.
“I had the opportunity to meet with Pavol Demitra on the first day and Marian Hossa, too. They congratulated me and we found time for a couple of sentences,” Chara smiled.
But hockey players from Trencin told him the sad news regarding local club Dukla’s financial problems. They are potentially on the verge of collapse.
“I am not here even 48 hours, I have a minimum of information, so just for that reason it is not appropriate on my part to comment on the situation,” Chara said. “But I believe that both parties agree.”
Chara last season reached the top of hockey’s Mount Olympus when he led the Bruins to a Game Seven Stanley Cup Final victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
“Certainly the most beautiful moment of career so far was taking the Cup itself and the first seconds after,” Chara remembered. “But if I pick something else, it’s so fun to see all the faces of teammates, coaches, doctors, masseurs, the whole team. It will remain engraved in my memory for a lifetime.
“(Lifting the Cup) is such a beautiful moment, a happiness and euphoria, it’s hard even to describe. It’s a moment when you know that you meet everything that you wanted so much. This includes many circumstances, stories, training, hard work and sacrifices.”
The team began celebrating in a taxi cab leaving the arena when the rioting unfolded in front of them, severely changing the mood.
“Immediately after the match, we had a celebration in the cab,” Chara said. “We became aware of what was happening outside the stadium and in the streets of Vancouver, where the fans were destroying their own city. It’s sad. We were glad we got out of there quickly and as safely as possible.”
After arriving in Boston, everything changed dramatically.
“The celebrations have been incredibly beautiful and outperformed all expectations,” Chara said. “We’d all been waiting for a beautiful welcome, but nobody expected that over two million people would come to the parade celebrating our victory. It wasn’t only young fans, but also older generations that remembered the Bruins’ last Cup victory (in 1972). Everything was beautiful. Thanks, signs and all that action, it was like a dream. It is amazing how people can show so much appreciation.”
For his leadership skills, Chara earned the Bridgestone Mark Messier Leadership Award. He also won the Bud Light Plus-Minus Award, but missed out on a second Norris Trophy to Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom.
“Being among the top three is something for which I am very proud,” Chara said. “On the other hand, the vote was very tight. I take it as motivation and I believe I can do it again.”
With all this success, one is left wondering whether Chara will remain as hungry.
“I wondered that, too, but I think I am a person who thrives on goals and challenges, who’s always looking ahead and still trying to be better,” Chara said, adding that international success is another goal he’ll be striving for. “I was lucky to earn silver in the 2000 Men’s World Ice Hockey Championships , and I would certainly like to get more medals for Slovakia. We were very close in Vancouver. I believe that our generation has to succeed.”