BOSTON (CBS) — Zdeno Chara is back in Boston and the Bruins captain is ready to get back on the ice. And you won’t hear him complain one bit about the NHL’s new playoff format.
Hockey will return soon, with the league announcing its plan to jump right into a reformatted 24-team postseason earlier this week. It’s not the most ideal playoff format, with the top four teams in each conference having to play a round robin to determined the top seeding. For the Bruins, who were far and away the best team in the East when play came to a stop, they’ll now have to earn their place atop the conference once again.
Chara, however, isn’t bothered by the format. Given all that is going on in the country amid the coronavirus pandemic, he thinks it would be out of place to complain about such a small issue in the grand scheme of things.
“The NHLPA and player reps worked hard to come up to this point with something that will be entertaining and fans will enjoy. It’s never a perfect scenario,” said Chara. “You have to realize that any time you have this kind of unexpected stoppage, with teams being at different points in the season, you have to come up with some sort of solution. The people involved were talking almost daily to player reps and player advisors to come up with the best possible solution. I think at this point, what we see is probably the best.
“You can’t really blame anyone or feel it’s unfair,” Chara added. “For us, we have to be grateful for the opportunity we’re getting. When you look at it in a real-life perspective, with what other people’s families and businesses are going through, we are getting the opportunity to start where we sort of ended the season. Not everybody is getting the same chance; a lot of people lost a lot of financial support, business went down and they’ll never get the same opportunities. We have to be grateful for the opportunity and take it as motivation and excitement. We have to embrace it.”
Well said, Z. But he wasn’t done. Chara added that he has really appreciated the extra family time he has gotten during this stoppage in play, giving him a chance to embrace what is really important in life.
“I’m so grateful that I have family and have been able to spend some time with them, and play with my kids every day,” said Chara. “It makes you realize that things are not always going to be perfect and there are going to be challenges in our life. Mostly, I’m very grateful and thankful that I’ve been able to have health with my family and spend some time with them.”
Chara has done his best to stay in shape during the break, but admits that going two-and-a-half months without lacing up his skates is the longest he’s been away from the ice in his career. But being the physical specimen that he is, the 43-year-old Chara isn’t too concerned about being game ready when the time comes.
He added that the biggest adjustment will be at neutral sites without fans, who always provide some extra energy for the Black and Gold.
“Most of us feel that’s going to be one of the biggest adjustment we have to make, because fans are such a big part of our game,” he said. “We all enjoy playing in front of sold out arenas and feeling their support. When the crowd gets behind you, you feel that extra energy and you have motivation to play for them. We’re going to have to make a big adjustment. It’s going to be quite silent and you’re going to probably be able to hear everyone talking on the ice, which could also be an advantage.
“But it’s the same for everyone else, so it’s something we’ll all have to get used to,” said Chara.
Though the Bruins will have to fight for the top seed in the East, Chara is confident the team will be able to bottle the motivation from last year’s heartbreaking Game 7 loss in the Stanley Cup Final, which fueled the Bruins in their hot start to the 2019-20 season.
“We started playing with that same pace we played in the playoffs, so that helped us early on. That played a big role for us playing at a much higher pace, and we played with a lot of motivation because of last year. We took it as something we wanted to address early on — we wanted a fresh start with a lot of energy,” said Chara.
“It’s not going to be perfect and we’ll be facing some possible uncomfortable situations, but we have to reset and get ready mentally for these situations that are coming,” he added. “Whoever is going to make the fastest adjustment and be mentally ready is probably going to benefit the most.”