Editor’s note: On Sunday, May 31, at 7 p.m. ET, NESN will be airing “Chara at 1000,” celebrating Zdeno Chara reaching the 1,000 game milestone in a Bruins uniform. In the lead-up to that, we will be remembering Chara’s finest moments in Boston — both on and off the ice. For more stories celebrating Chara, click here.
Zdeno Chara is not someone to mess with on the ice. But as he gave a touching speech in 2009, it became clear he’s not always as rough and tough off the ice.
The Boston Bruins came up short during the 2008-09 season, falling to the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Chara’s year wasn’t over yet, though.
The Bruins defensemen went on to win the 2009 Norris Trophy on June 19, edging out Detroit Red Wings blueliner Nicklas Lidstrom and the Washington Capitals’ Mike Green. Chara had been nominated for the award twice before ultimately winning it, having been beaten out by Lidstrom on both prior occasions.
The Norris Trophy is an annual award given to the defensive player who demonstrates the greatest all-round ability in the position throughout the season. The winner is selected by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association each year.
Even after winning the award though, Big Z couldn’t help but give credit to his teammates.
“Obviously I know this is an individual award,” Chara said during his acceptance speech. “But to me it’s just a reflection of team play and I have to thank all my teammates for their contribution, their help, for their trust, respect, but most of all for creating a big family in Boston.”
With Chara’s leadership, the Bruins had the lowest goals-against average in the entire league during the 2008-09 campaign. Chara led the team with average of 26:04 ice time per game, while putting up 50 points.
But for then-Bruins head coach Claude Julien, Chara’s impact went far beyond any numerical value. It always was about his presence on the ice.
“When you see him every day and watch him play every night, and you see what he brings to your team, for me it’s more than just stats,” Julien said in 2009, per NHL.com. “It’s what he’s done for this hockey club. The fact that we finished where we finished, he deserves a lot of credit for that, and not just for his play but also for his leadership role.”
Much of his work ethic and the intangibles he brings to the ice can be credited to the perseverance it took for him to make it to the NHL. And as he closed out his Norris Trophy acceptance speech, he reminded everyone how unlikely it was for him to even make it to the league, let alone win such a prestigious award.
“I was never supposed to make it past juniors. I was cut by every team,” he said. “And I just want to send a message to all those kids who’ve been cut: It’s amazing what you can accomplish, putting your mind into it and (using) hard work.”
Check out Chara’s full speech below: