Zdeno Chara: Loss of friend Pavol Demitra, former coach Brad McCrimmon ‘hard to swallow’
|09.08.11 at 12:56 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — It takes a lot to shake the biggest player in the league, but a day after the tragic plane crash that killed the members of the KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, it was clear that the event had a major impact on Bruins’ captain Zdeno Chara.
Among those killed in the crash were former Bruin Brad McCrimmon, who was the head coach of the KHL team and had previously coached Chara while the two were in the Islanders system, as well as longtime NHL forward and Slovakia native Pavol Demitra. Chara had ties to both men, so the crash hit close to home for the Slovakian defenseman.
“It was huge. Still. It’s horrible,” Chara Thursday said of how hard the last 24 hours-plus had been. “It’s just a tragedy that shook up the whole world and hockey world especially. We all feel bad about the players’ families and it’s something that is just hard to swallow.”
Demitra and Chara grew up in neighboring towns, as Chara hails from Trencin, with Demitra being born in Dubnica nad Vahom. The two grew up less than 20 minutes away from one another, but had a long-standing friendship.
“Pavel was a guy who was always easygoing, was always friendly with everybody and never really had a conflict with anybody,” Chara said of his late friend. “He was really a very favored and popular guy between other guys, and obviously we all know he was an extremely talented player.
“People probably don’t know dedicated a dad he was,” Chara continued. “He was always spending time with his kids and family, and I think that speaks for itself, too. He had offers from the NHL, but he chose to return back home and be there for his kids and his wife when they were going to school, and they chose the school system in Slovakia. It’s a very very said time right now.”
Demitra had a profound impact in the NHL for a former ninth-round pick, as he was a three-time All Star, three-time 30-goal-scorer, and the recipient of the Lady Byng in 2000. McCrimmon was chosen by the Bruins with the 15th overall pick in the 1979 draft, and after a long playing career became a successful assistant coach in the NHL. Chara said he’ll remember those lost not by their accomplishments, but by who they were as individuals.
Said Chara: “When you get to know players as [people], it’s just devastating.”