BOSTON — Bruins captain Zdeno Chara keeps himself in ridiculous shape. Some of the things that he’s able to do, especially within his gargantuan 6-foot-9 frame, are mind-boggling. The minutes he logs and how effectively he does so — it’s something else.
But time waits for no man, not even someone who works as hard and stays as great of shape as Chara. He swears he’s not contemplating retirement just yet, but he turned 37 last month, and he knows no one can play forever.
That sobering thought is leading Chara to take nothing for granted. He still works harder than anyone, and that’s because he knows he has no choice if he wants to remain effective. He also does so because he still really enjoys what he does, and that drives him as much as anything else.
“As you get older and you’ve been in the league for a while, you don’t realize how much you’re going to maybe miss that part of the game once you’re gone,” Chara said Monday after once again being named a finalist for the Norris Trophy. “I’m not saying that I’m thinking about being gone or retiring, but I’m kind of realizing that the time is not going to be always there.”
Chara continues to find different ways to make the most of that fleeting time as an NHL player. The Slovak blueliner does all that is asked of him, and he accepts those challenges and uses them as fuel. He made no bones about going down low in front of the net on the power play this season, a change that drastically altered his role on the man-advantage. Chara had to learn an entirely different philosophy.
“It was definitely something new and some new challenges for me, but I look forward to those,” Chara said. “Before every season, I always say that I want to be better. I want to improve, and sometimes, these kind of new things brings more motivation and kind of a little spark, and I try to do my best in whatever position I’m in, whether it’s power play, (penalty kill), 5-on-5.”
That change — moving Chara from the blue line to below the faceoff dots — was one of the big reasons the Bruins had the league’s third-ranked power play, with Chara scoring a team-high 10 power-play goals.
He was also called on to help mentor and teach the Bruins’ young defensemen. Boston lost battled-tested veteran D-man Dennis Seidenberg in late December, which left the Bruins with four regular defensemen aged 26 or younger. Despite that, there was just one team that allowed fewer goals than the Bruins in the regular season.
No one, maybe not even Chara, knows how long his career will last. What is clear, however, is that the Boston captain is going to work as hard as he can on and off the ice until he does decide to call it a career because that’s what makes him happy.
“I enjoy really coming to the rink every day,” he said. “I enjoy competing in practices against guys and always in the games. I love the game. I’ve said it many times — it’s a humbling game and I love everything about it. So every little part of it, you have to obtain joy. You have to have fun and work hard at it, and if you do that, you have no regrets.
“You basically do what you love and it’s much easier than coming to the rink and thinking about, ‘Oh my God, I have to do this again.’ You always want to look at it in a positive way.”