Bruins captain Zdeno Chara grew up in rural Trencin, Slovakia, playing outdoor hockey on the Vah River. For Chara, those are cherished memories that he expects to come flooding back through his heart and mind when he steps on the ice at Fenway Park for the 2010 Winter Classic.
“We skated on a river all the time,” he said. “That’s where we played. We had a lot of good times there and it was always something you think back to. So to be able to do that at this level is going to be great and bring you back to that.”
Chara loved the elements involved in playing outdoor hockey. To him, there was nothing like a brisk, sunny day on the Vah for playing some shinny with his mates.
“It was all those natural factors involved, whether it was windy, sunny [or] snow that made it unique,” he said. “Usually we skated on a nice sunny day and just to be outside and to feel the heat coming out from underneath your gear, that was pretty cool.”
Playing on a river could, of course, become dangerous with the running water, but Chara and his buddies would make sure to set up their makeshift rinks safely and close to land. That way, there was no chance that anyone could fall through the ice.
“Nobody did, thanks God,” he said when asked if there were ever any accidents or close calls. “We tried to play on the side of the river, not in the middle to be safe.”
Of course the Fenway rink won’t pose any treacherous conditions, but there will be the danger of getting caught up in the moment a bit too much and losing focus on the task at hand. The Bruins plan to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime event, but they also want to come away with two important points in the Eastern Conference standings.
“I think that we have to make sure we don’t get overwhelmed by it,” Chara said. “A lot of people are going to be there and it’s going to be great, but we have to make sure we stay within our game and have mental control. We don’t want to get too hyped up and [have to] just control our emotions.”
NESN.com’s James Murphy will be answering one Winter Classic question every day in December. Monday, Dec. 21: What are Bobby Orr’s thoughts on the Winter Classic?
Saturday, Dec. 19: How do fans feel about the game at Fenway Park?
Monday, Dec. 21: What are Bobby Orr’s thoughts on the Winter Classic?