BOSTON — At 42, Zdeno Chara is 14 years older than the subsequent oldest Bruins defenseman, Torey Krug.
Of the 4 different blue liners who will take the ice for Boston in opposition to the St. Louis Blues in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals on Monday night time, the subsequent oldest is a second-year defenseman, Matt Grzelcyk, 25, and the youngest is Chara’s defensive companion, Charlie McAvoy, 21. McAvoy was born 32 days after Chara made his N.H.L. debut for the Islanders on Nov. 19, 1997.
Chara was 29 when he signed with the Bruins as a free agent from Ottawa in 2006 and was instantly named captain. He gained the Norris Trophy because the league’s greatest defenseman in 2009 — he has been a finalist 4 different occasions — and was a bulwark in 2011 when Boston gained its first Stanley Cup in 39 years. Yet his biggest and most lasting contribution could be the information he has imparted to the present crop of Bruins defensemen.
Connor Clifton, 24, a rookie, spent most of this season with Boston’s American Hockey League affiliate in Providence, R.I., however was referred to as up when the veterans John Moore and Kevan Miller went out with accidents. Clifton performed a key function within the sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes within the Eastern Conference finals, and he credit Chara with exhibiting him what’s required to excel within the N.H.L.
“He’s the ultimate professional,” stated Clifton, a New Jersey native who performed 4 years at Quinnipiac University. “The way he takes care of himself, the way he carries himself, the way he leads the group — he rubs off a little on everyone, especially the younger guys.”
As a 20-year-old rookie with the Islanders, Chara was mentored by a 25-year-old Scott Lachance. Chara, a Slovak, spoke little English on the time and was removed from a completed product, however as his sport and language abilities developed, he started taking a bigger function with gamers who wanted the sort of assist he had acquired.
Two years in the past, as a 20-year-old rookie, Brandon Carlo was paired with Chara on Boston’s prime defensive unit.
“Coming into the N.H.L. isn’t easy,” stated Carlo, who was the No. 37 total decide within the 2015 draft. “There are a lot of mind-set things you go through, like, ‘Am I going to stay up here or get sent down?’ Just from the way he does things, on and off the ice, by watching him you can understand a lot more about the game.”
Carlo sustained a concussion in Boston’s final regular-season sport that season and missed the 2017 playoffs. That created a chance for McAvoy, then 19 and simply a few weeks faraway from taking part in for Boston University. Summoned from Providence, McAvoy was paired with Chara and made his Boston debut within the first-round collection in opposition to Ottawa. Boston misplaced in six video games, however McAvoy acquitted himself nicely, and gave credit score to Chara.
“He’s a pretty easy guy to read off, and he’s so defensively sound, and steady,” McAvoy stated. “You get the opportunity to just play when you’re with him.”
Goalie Tuukka Rask was traded to the Bruins from Toronto in 2006, the identical yr Chara arrived in Boston, and he has seen Chara paired with many teammates through the years. Chara has had the identical impact on Carlo and McAvoy, Rask stated, as he did on Dougie Hamilton, a former Bruin who was the ninth total draft decide in 2011 and who performed alongside Chara as a 19-year-old rookie within the 2012-13 season.
“Z has done that for every defenseman he’s played with,” Rask stated. “He’s both a solid defenseman and a leader.”
Carlo stated Chara had efficiently navigated the superb line between friendship and mentorship: “He’ll get on you if he needs to, or he’ll be your good friend, if you need that.”
Even a delicate gesture can have an effect. Clifton recalled what occurred at observe the day earlier than the collection opener in opposition to Carolina.
“We were paired together that day,” Clifton stated, “and I think it was a bad pass I made, or something like that, and he gave me a little tap on the back with his stick and said: ‘Hey, let’s go. Focus here.’ It was an awesome moment, and I’ll probably look back on it someday and realize how much it helped me out.”
Claude Julien, the previous Bruins coach, as soon as described the 6-foot-9, 250-pound Chara as “a freak of fitness.” And after adopting a plant-based weight-reduction plan forward of the 2017-18 season, Chara could also be in higher situation than he was a decade in the past.
“Every day he comes to work, he doesn’t seem tired, he doesn’t seem groggy,” Carlo stated. “He comes ready to battle.”
Chara is married with two kids. Carlo marvels at his off-ice routine.
“The way he eats, the way he trains, is amazing,” he stated. “His focus 24/7 pretty much is on the hockey side of things. Why he’s been in the league so long is because he is dedicated to that structure. It’s pretty impressive to watch and learn from.”
The N.H.L.’s longest-tenured captain, Chara signed a one-year contract extension in March, which can take him by means of his 43rd birthday, and he has indicated he hopes that’s not the final one. McAvoy, hardly alone amongst his teammates, agrees.
“Everything he does is the perfect example for how everyone on our team should act,” McAvoy stated the day Chara re-upped with the Bruins. “He’s helped me in so many ways on and off the ice. I’m very lucky. I don’t take it for granted to be able to play with a guy like that.”
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