BOSTON (CBS) — At 42 years old, Zdeno Chara is the elder statesman of the Boston Bruins locker room. Most of his teammates were still in diapers when he broke into the NHL in 1997, and his defensive partner hadn’t even been born yet.
But none of that matters to Chara. He doesn’t see age in the Boston locker room, only his teammates. And boy does he loves his teammates.
“Age doesn’t separate the conversations or personalities. I’ve been saying that for a long time; we are treating everyone the same way no matter if they’re 18 or 40, if someone has 1,000 games or are playing in their first game,” Chara said Monday. “From a young age, I didn’t like the separation between old and young players. I don’t like to use the word rookie; they’re our teammate. I just don’t like to separate, I don’t think that’s the right thing to do.
“Once you’re a team, you’re a team regardless of the age or accomplishments,” he concluded.
The topic was brought up because Chara is defensive partners with Charlie McAvoy, whom Chara doubles in age. When McAvoy was born in December of 1997, Chara only had five NHL games under his belt. With the playoffs, he’s now up to 1,660 NHL contests.
Asked about the age difference between him and his blue line mate, Chara said there were a handful of funny stories that popped into his head. The true professional he is, Chara wasn’t ready to share them. He got a chuckle when asked about his father-son relationship with McAvoy, and whether the two ever do any “kid activities” together in their free time.
“Trust me, I have three kids. I have plenty of those activities,” Chara joked.
Chara has seen it all over his 20-plus years in the NHL, and passes along plenty of wisdom to anyone in the Boston dressing room. Whether it’s his ridiculous training regimen or how he plays on the ice, Chara is always ready to help.
“It’s something I hope they learn as they go along and see what it takes,” he said. “They have the ability to do that when you see how they came into the league and where they are now, how they keep getting better and improving. They’re becoming a big part of our team and I wish them a long, long successful career. If I can make a small part of it by doing what I love to do, and do it every day, if that helps them, I’d love to.”
Chara was back at practice on Monday for the first time since being a late scratch ahead of last week’s Game 4 clincher against the Carolina Hurricanes, and he’s eager to take the ice again when the Stanley Cup Final finally begins next Monday (opponent still TBD). This being his third Stanley Cup appearance with the Bruins, Chara’s message is clear to his younger teammates.
“You have to realize how special it is to be in the Finals and what it takes. At the same time, you haven’t accomplished anything or won anything,” he said. “You have to make sure you stay the course, stay focus and stay committed to what’s ahead of you.”
But Boston’s towering leader is confident everyone on the roster is ready for the challenge.
“The team we have, it’s always a team I believe in. That will never change,” said Chara. “That’s the biggest thing for me, I believe the group of guys we have, the players we have, the system and the coaching staff, management. I believe that’s the way we go and I follow the lead set by the organization. I just go in and try to make the best out of it.”