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 has been praised over and over by his teammates past and present for his leadership and what he brings to the Boston Bruins. It’s safe to say, however, his opponents haven’t enjoyed the Chara experience quite as much.
But that’s not to say there’s a lack of respect for the future Hall of Famer. Far from it, actually.
Ask just about any opponent of Chara — who over 22 years has played more than 1,500 career games and more than a thousand with the Bruins — their impressions of the hulking defenseman, and you’re likely to see a theme: Chara is no fun to play against. It’s going to be a long night when you’re battling the 6-foot-9 Slovak.
Here’s what some of Chara’s opponents have had to say about him over the years.
On what makes him so difficult to play against
Former Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw during the 2013 Stanley Cup Final: “He’s a beast out there. He’s got that great stick, and he’s a great defensive player. I really have to key on him and make him work and make him compete in those corners.”
Former NHL All-Star and fellow countryman Marian Hossa: “He’s the biggest guy on the ice. His stick is so big. If you don’t move your feet, he’s going to hurt you, he’s going to come close to you and pin you on the board. You have to make sure you’re moving your feet, stop and start.”
Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby the season after the 2013 Eastern Conference finals: “He’s one of those guys who looks forward to those challenges, gets up for those and wants to shut you down. You have to find ways to create, and the thing with him, his reach is so long there are times when you feel like on a normal-sized defenseman you’d have him beat, then he gets a stick on it. You’ve just got to be patient. There are times when you feel like you’ve got a step on him, but he finds a way to get a stick on it.”
On his strength, toughness, and longevity:
Shaw: “Growing up watching that guy play, I always thought he was an amazing player, and he still is. He’s the strongest guy I’ve ever played against. It’s a great battle in front of the net.”
Former Selke Trophy winner and Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour: “Not too many fond memories, that’s for sure. A lot like Scott Stevens for me. He was the kind of player you knew when you were in the corner that you were either gonna get crushed or something was gonna happen.”
Toronto Maple Leafs star John Tavares: “I think also there might be no worse situation than kind of being stuck along the boards and being angled off by the big man and know you’ve gotta embrace for one of those body checks. You’ve just gotta hope that everything stays in place. … A lot of good battles over the years. His longevity, the intensity that he plays with consistently, you know you have to be ready to play because he’s not taking any shift for granted or off.”
On his leadership and integrity:
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews during Chara’s pregame ceremony: “You’re one of the best in the game. Great leader, your commitment and your preparation off the ice as everyone knows is unheard of, unparalleled. All the other captains, leaders in the league, look up to guys like you.”
Buffalo Sabres forward Jack Eichel: “He’s a real friendly guy when you’re not playing against him. He works really hard and he’s a good leader. I grew up watching him, and everything he’s done for the organization is great to see. It’s great for our game. He continues to make an impact even every year he gets older.”
Former Bruins coach Claude Julien: “You have no idea what this guy does for a hockey club. The few times he’s been out of our lineup, you’ve seen a difference. … He’s been an MVP for us since the day he stepped into that dressing room, and continues to be.”
Former Blues winger Chris Thorburn at 2019 Stanley Cup Final: “I’ve actually fought him twice. The second one I asked him (to fight). The first one he came after me. I think our tough guy fought (Milan Lucic), and then I bumped (Chara) and he grabbed me and he hit me pretty hard with one. He could have hit me again, but another part of him is such a respectful player, he didn’t. If you’re willing to fight him — well first, good luck. But he plays by the code and the rules, and that’s why everyone respects him.”
New Jersey Devils defenseman and longtime Bruins rival PK Subban: “One of the best leaders in the history of the game.”