The hardest working man in hockey
"I got so sick of that, hearing, 'You will never make it,'" Chara recalled this week, as he prepared to move to Boston from Ottawa, where he spent the last four NHL seasons as a force on the Senators' defense. "Those voices, those coaches, have always stayed in my head. When someone says to me, 'You cannot do it,' that's the best thing for me. I hear that, I make sure I prove that I can do it."There's an excellent feature in today's Boston Globe on new Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara. One of the best things about the piece is that it really allows you to learn things you didn't know about the big lug, like his fanatical workout habits and peculiar eating habits.
Given he's now a perrenial Norris Trophy candidate, it's hard to imagine there was a time when Chara wasn't taken seriously as a hockey player, but I remember it well. His first season in North American was with the WHL's Prince George Cougars, and a then 6-foot-8, 230-pound Chara was as odd-looking a hockey player as anyone familiar with the Canadian junior hockey circuit had seen.
Then just 19 years old, he was an awkward skater, and despite putting up some decent totals skating alongside Eric Brewer, Chara spent a lot of his first and only junior season fighting off the league's challengers.
And no matter how big or strong they were, he was up to the task.
Not that his strength and size were ever a question. But even some of the most seasoned hockey observers in Kamloops didn't think much of Chara's chances in the NHL, where he was drafted in the 3rd round by the New York Islanders the previous season.
If we would have known his work ethic, however, I think that opinion would have changed.
Every workout day is different, self-designed to keep him interested and motivated, but Chara routinely puts in 6-7 hours of training, including cardio work, weights, and agility exercises. After games, he said, he typically works out for another hour or two. Fiancee Tatiana Biskupicova, his constant companion the last 10 years, is often the last to leave the wives' room after games, Chara often working to near midnight after games that end around 9:30.It shows.
Has he ever been outworked by anyone?
"No. No," he said, firmly and reflexively. "Because I wouldn't allow it."