Yes, two Boston Bruins defensemen have birthdays on two consecutive days–today is the 36th birthday of captain Zdeno Chara. Originally drafted in 1996 by the New York Islanders, Chara spent four years on Long Island developing his game and starting to hone his slapshot. But during the 2001 draft, he was traded off to the Ottawa Senators as part of the Alexei Yashin deal, a deal that was supposed to be a miracle for the Isles. (It wasn’t.)
The Sens discovered that Chara’s slapper could be used to great effect on the power play and he started making All-Star Game appearances, first registering the second hardest shot right behind Al MacInnis in 2003. He also nabbed his first Norris Trophy nominee with Ottawa in 2003-04, tallying up the league’s third highest plus-minus rating. The 2004-05 lockout saw him playing over in Sweden and he had another excellent season in Canada’s capital once the NHL doors reopened, but then the Senators decided to re-sign Wade Redden over Chara and off he went into the wilds of unrestricted free agency.
That’s when he signed with Boston, in summer 2006, being named the team captain since the position was vacant. That made him the third player born in Slovakia to captain an NHL team. He also won his first hardest shot contest at the 2007 All-Star Game by thwacking a 100.4 mph slap shot, following that up by being named a starter in 2008 and getting his shot up to 103.1 mph. His career-high 2007-08 production brought him his second Norris nomination.
He added a charitable element to the hardest shot competition in 2009 (105.4 mph) and surpassed his career-high markers from the previous season, earning a Norris win. In January 2011, he also scored his first hat trick. Of course, that wasn’t the only first thing he got in 2011, since he captained the Bruins to a Stanley Cup win six months later. This made him the very first Slovakian to be captain of a champion team.
His 2012 hardest shot record of 108.8 mph will hold until at least 2015 since there was no 2013 game and 2014 is an Olympiad. Once again, his production in the 2011-12 season eclipsed his previous career best offensive totals: 52 points, all but a dozen of them assists. He played his 1,000th game in March 2012, was nominated for the Norris again and spent time with the KHL HC Lev Praha team during the most recent lockout.
At a towering 6’9″, it was suggested that Chara go into playing basketball instead, though obviously he made the better choice. He and his dad are both Olympians, though–Zdeno has been to the 2006 and 2010 Olympics, while father Zdenek wrestled in 1976. A speaker of seven languages, reportedly interested in learning an eighth, he’s a CPA and an athletic ambassador for the Right to Play charity, as well as one of the first players to support the You Can Play Project. He’s also a father to young daughter Tatiana.
Here are some of Chara’s finer moments so far in his career:
A recent great moment–his spin-o-rama goal against the Florida Panthers.
Standing up for his teammates.
Chara gets the Gordie Howe hat trick in December 2011.
He also gets the actual hat trick in 2011.
Here’s a hit so hard it shatters the glass.
Speaking of hard things, here’s that 108.8 mph slapshot.
A 15-minute intro to Chara segment from the KHL.