|Penalties lead to B’s undoing at the hands of the Penguins||03.15.09 at 8:18 pm ET|
Take penalties against the New York Islanders and you might just be able to kill them off.
Take those some penalties against hockey guys named Crosby, Malkin, Gonchar and Guerin and you might not be quite as lucky in the world of the NHL. That seemed to be the moral of the story for a Boston Bruins team that trudged off to the sin bin eight different times in a 6-4 loss to a white-hot Pittsburgh Penguins squad on Sunday afternoon. Sidney Crosby and Co. have taken points in each of their last 10 games during a meteoric rise over the last few weeks through the Eastern Conference standings.
It appeared a week or two ago that the Penguins might be a potentially dangerous first round opponent for the Spoked B in the playoffs, but it now appears that Mario’s Boys are shooting their way up into the middle of the pack once the “tournament” starts in mid-April.
But now the Bruins are left holding the hockey bag once again with no points after they couldn’t find a way to muster that one final goal in the final eight minutes of regulation to send the game into OT — and in the process gather another all-important point providing space between themselves and the hard-charging New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals.
It’s eye-opening to watch some NHL playoff-caliber teams simply will themselves to overtime in tight one-goal games when valuable points are on the line, but time-after-time the Bruins haven’t been able to grind their way into the extra session. It’s a test of will and determination that this team could and should have — particularly if they could show the kind of frenetic throw-everything-at-the-net jump that they showed once Pittsburgh netted the open-net goal in the third period.
Less than 24 hours after singing the praises of a Bruins team able to snuff out a Mark Streit-led Isles power play unit during a third period 5-on-3, the B’s once again spent plenty of ice time on the PK. This time, though, the high-powered Penguins made them pay for it — with some of the penalties of the questionable variety and others simply sloppy decision-making and bad judgement infractions.
Case in point: a Dennis Wideman slashing penalty in the first period that came after the whistle and seemed more out of frustration than anything else in a fairly chippy, high-intensity hockey game. That Wideman penalty led directly to a power play score for Chris Kunitz during a mad scramble right in front of the Bruins net.
The good news for all those stockholders in Black and Gold Inc: Phil Kessel continues to heat up and resemble the guy that looked like he was going to be a 50-goal scorer before mono knocked him back for a bit. The 21-year-old now has goals in three straight games, and has given the B’s a much-needed offensive transfusion. Blake Wheeler also looked like he had as much spring in his step as he displayed during the entire first half of the season. The big rookie potted his first goal since a Feb. 17 game against the Carolina Hurricanes — a span of 11 games that the 6-foot-5 former Golden Gopher had endured without a lamp-lighter.
Injury Ward:Dennis Wideman took a shot off the right knee in the third period and was hobbled — but the blueliner continued to play through the injury for the remainder of the third period.
Player of the Game:The Penguins felt like they addressed some of their grit/competitiveness issues when they traded for Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin, and both skaters seemed to be in vintage postseason form while each totalling three points and playing big, big roles in the victory over the Bruins. For the B’s, the Wheeler/Kessel/Marc Savard was pretty effective throughout the game.
Goat Horns:Dennis Wideman had one shot on goal, took two penalties (including one after the whistle that led to a Penguins goal) and was a -3 for the night. All in all, pretty ugly. It wasn’t really a banner day for any of the Boston blueliners, and the shot that clanged off his knee in the third period just dropped his afternoon from bad to worse.
Turning Point: The Bruins had a 3-2 lead headed into the third period and things seemed to be in a good spot for the Black and Gold, but a pair of Penguins strikes within 18 seconds of each other in the opening moments of the third period really sapped the energy right out of the Penguins. The Bruins managed to tie things up again in the third, but the quick attack of the Penguins clearly knocked the B’s skaters back on their heels in the final 20 minutes of the eventual loss.
|Amid second-half slide, B’s searching for answers||03.05.09 at 11:37 pm ET|
Frustration appears to be bubbling over in the Bruins dressing room as the inconsistent performances stack upon each other, and those immediately chasing the Spoked B in the Eastern Conference standings keep gaining ground in disconcerting clumps.
Things hit a new low last night, as the Bruins clearly got back to their difficult-to-play-against ways but couldn’t muster up enough lunchpail offense in a 2-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes at the TD Banknorth Garden.
The straggling, struggling Black and Gold sit mired in a 3-6-2 slump over their last 11 games, and have degenerated into a mystified hockey team searching for answers amid a series of passionless periods, 80-foot fluke goals and bang-bang shots at open nets that inexplicably sail over the inviting crease.
The catalyst for the current 11-game slide back to the pack? Travel back to a Feb. 10 loss to the San Jose Sharks on their home ice where Jumbo Joe Thornton and Co. clearly turned on the jets in the third period and left the B’s scrambling for confidence after getting beaten down by the Western Conference powerhouse.
It was a national Versus game billed as a potential Stanley Cup Finals matchup between the Beast of the East and the Best of the West, and it ended with a stunning collapse from which the Bruins still haven’t fully recovered. Instead of a crowning moment punctuated by the triumphant Bruins leaving the arena with NHL bragging rights, Claude Julien’s boys have dropped into an undeniable rut that has some in the hockey world wondering whether this team was truly as good as its nearly letter-perfect first half.
Perhaps the overwhelming nature of that third period simply humbled a young, fearless puck bunch and splashed a bit of doubt into the minds of a group of brash young hockey players.
Boston has flashed glimpses of the dominant squad that simply slammed the hammer down on opponents during the first three months of the year, but it’s becoming apparent the San Jose defeat damaged the exposed psyche of a young, talented team attempting to make their first big statement.
Despite their current freefall, the Bruins have maintained the top spot in the East and have blowout wins over the Ducks and Panthers within the erratic stretch. But even Boston’s best players are starting to search for answers just out of their reach. The New Jersey Devils remain six points behind the B’s in the East, and they’ve won 8 of their last 10 and regained their Hall of Fame goaltender in the same breath.
Is it time to worry yet?
“What’s frustrating is that we know how we can play, and we can dominate when we’re at our best,” said center Marc Savard. “We didn’t put any pucks in the net and maybe we’re being a little too cute at times. We’ve got to try to nip this in the butt right now. We’ve got a big weekend ahead of us and we all know that. We’ve got to start pulling points out of games, and we all know that.
“It’s not for the lack of effort,” added Savard. “We’re trying. I know the fans come out all year. We heard the boos off the second, and we don’t want that. We want to go and show them what we can do, and want it to be a long run here. It was frustrating for us too.”
The Big, Bad hockey club put forth a grating, physical brand of hockey, outhitting the young Desert Dogs by a 31-10 margin during last night’s defeat, and Milan Lucic, Mark Recchi and Chuck Kobasew were all — at different times — camped out in the middle of the high-traffic zones attempting to redirect pucks, screen the goaltender and manufacture any kind of goal. There just wasn’t enough of it happening to make a difference.
It was exactly the kind of things that hockey purists preach to escape a rut, but nothing worked for a club that’s clearly squeezing the daylights out of their hockey sticks.
“I wish I had the magical answer for what’s going on, but it’s simple things right down to plain effort from every single player,” said blueliner Aaron Ward, who was part of an aggressive corps of defensemen that time and again pinched and crashed into the offensive zone without ultimately cashing in. “You’re out there and you hear the fans booing, and it’s justified right now to express displeasure for our performance. You watch video postgame and that’s simply not the way we need to be playing the game.
“I’m laughing, but it’s pretty (discouraging) to sit here and wonder what’s going on,” added Ward.
Several players talked afterward about “being too cute with the puck” and “not playing a full 60 minutes of hockey,” but they also appeared frustrated to hear boos cascading down to the ice from the 16,818 in attendance in the closing seconds of a flatter-than-flapjacks second period.
The worst part?
The B’s knew they deserved the Garden catcalls after seizing control of the game early on the strength of Chuck Kobasew’s goal, and then simply allowed things to slip out of their fingers later in the first — and then stumbled right on into an uninspired second period.
The B’s have become a shadow of their first-half selves as the postseason pressure cooker looms closer with every passing day, and the time has come to pack away the rookie walls, nagging injuries, and line chemistry questions into the excuse box in the Garden attic.
The time has come for the Bruins to regain the confident identity of the season’s first half and simply start willing themselves to goals and wins against whatever lines up across the ice from them. The time has come for the B’s to heal up the damage of month-old wounds and protect what they’ve worked so very hard for over the course of a long hockey season.
If they don’t — and fast — then things will get far worse than they were against the Coyotes on a random Thursday night in March.
“I just feel that talk is cheap,” said Julien. “The same thing with standing up front here and trying to explain to (the media). Talk is cheap right now. We have to go up there and then execute. I can stand here and give you all of the excuses. There shouldn’t be excuses. There’s got to be reasons to want to turn this thing around.”
Injury Ward: Milan Lucic came through with flying colors in his first game back from an “upper body injury” and was a physical presence with six crunching body blows against the Coyotes. Other than Looch, everyone else appeared to come through okay.
Player of the Game: Zdeno Chara. After the rare off-game on Tuesday night, Chara responded by playing with some snarl and absolutely beating down Coyotes all over the ice with punishing checks and intimidation tactics. A good rebound game for Big Z.
Goat Horns: Dennis Wideman. It was a bad night for Wideman, who turned a puck over in the D-zone during the Phoenix power play that quickly led to Scottie Upshall’s first Coyotes goal. The score deflated the team for a bit, and Wideman was on the ice for both of the Coyotes’ goals on the evening. Blake Wheeler has also continued to struggle in the final months, and was limited to little more than 10 minutes of ice time on a night when backchecking seemed optional among many of Boston’s forwards.
Turning Point: The Bruins basically crawled up and died for the next 30 minutes of play once Scottie Upshall banged home the Coyotes’ first goal — a power play score — off a bad Dennis Wideman turnoever. A hockey team simply can’t do that anymore in March and April.
|Ference, Chara make personal donations for Right to Play||02.23.09 at 11:23 am ET|
The Right to Play is a charity organization that includes a heavy dose of Boston Bruins involvement, as both Andrew Ference and Zdeno Chara have traveled over to Africa in the name of the Canadian organization. Twenty-two different NHL players are donating something of their own to raise in the next week, and that includes Ference putting his own Harley Davidson on auction to raise funds. The coolest part: the player get to do in the name of someone they care about or admire.
No word on whether Big Z is going to donate the Right to Play yellow toque he was sporting when he reared back and fired the NHL hardest slap shot during All-Star weekend in Montreal last month. Here’s the release from Right to Play:
Players from 22 National Hockey League teams are showing their support for the international humanitarian organization Right To Play by making personal donations over the Feb. 27 ‘ March 1 weekend.
NHL superstars including Right To Play Athlete Ambassadors Alexander Ovechkin, Zdeno Chara, Joe Thornton and Daniel Alfredsson will be among at least 25 players donating to Right To Play based on minutes played in one of their team’s games Feb. 27 ‘ March 1. While players celebrate their ability to play a game they love, they will be making donations to Right To Play in honour of coaches or role models who instilled in them the positive values of sport and helped them succeed — not just in hockey, but in life.
Funds raised will support Right To Play’s sport and play programs in 23 countries of operation across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America. By training local community leaders as Coaches to deliver these programs, Right To Play provides similar growth opportunities and positive role models for 600,000 children in Right To Play activities every week.
‘When I visited Right To Play projects in Mozambique last summer, I saw what an incredible impact Right To Play Coaches are having on children’s lives,’ said Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. ‘I was inspired by their commitment and extremely impressed by the ability of just a few Coaches to create such happiness and amazing learning opportunities for literally hundreds of children. My father was a mentor for me and that is why I am honouring him with my donation. I know it is for an outstanding cause.’
The Garth Brooks Teammates For Kids Foundation is also joining in the players’ support of Right To Play by matching donation contributions from Teammates For Kids ‘Hockey Teammates’ up to $20,000.
In addition, players, teams, the NHL and NHL Players’ Association have all contributed to an online auction in benefit of Right To Play. The auction launches this evening at www.ebay.com/righttoplayand is highlighted by a 1999 Harley-Davidson motorcycle donated by Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference and a leather jacket from Deeley Harley-Davidson Canada.
Andrew’s video promoting the auction can be seen on the eBay site. Other items include a custom Steve Montador signature poker table, a signed 2009 ‘West’ NHL All-Star Game sweater, game-used sticks from Daniel Alfredsson, Garnet Exelby and Manny Malhotra, an Alex Ovechkin-autographed Right To Play tracksuit, signed jerseys and other merchandise. The auction closes on March 1.
‘On behalf of all the children in our programs and the volunteer Coaches who work with them, I want to thank these NHL players and the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Foundation for their outstanding leadership and support,’ said Right To Play President and CEO Johann Koss. ‘This initiative is a great example of what can be achieved when athletes rally together around the best values of sport and play.’
Participating players are listed below and can also be found on a Coach Tribute Wall at righttoplay.ca or righttoplayusa.org. Fans are encouraged to join these NHL players by making online donations in honour of their own coaches or role models. For donations of $25 or more, donor and coach names will be inserted on the Coach Tribute Wall alongside the NHL players, and the donor will receive a personalized ‘Coach Tribute’ via email as a special thank you.
Right To Play 2009 ‘Donation for Minutes Weekend’ Participants
NHL Team Player Honoured Coach / Role Model Donation Game
Anaheim Ducks Steve Montador/Gisele Bourgeois Feb. 28 at Dallas
Chris Pronger/Ollie Bon Jovi / Hummer Feb. 28 at Dallas
Atlanta Thrashers Garnet Exelby Jude Boulianne Feb. 28 vs. Carolina
Boston Bruins Zdeno Chara/Zdenek Chara Feb. 28 vs. Washington
Andrew Ference/Brent Peterson Feb. 28 vs. Washington
Calgary Flames Robyn Regehr/All minor hockey coaches Feb. 27 vs. Minnesota
Chicago Blackhawks Jonathan Toews/Thom Gross Feb. 27 vs. Pittsburgh
Columbus Blue Jackets Manny Malhotra/Scott Sones/Rob Honighan March 1 at Vancouver
Edmonton Oilers Ethan Moreau/Ab Moreau Feb. 28 vs. Minnesota
Florida Panthers Jay Bouwmeester/Dan Bouwmeester Feb. 28 at New Jersey
Greg Campbell/All minor hockey coaches Feb. 28 at New Jersey
Los Angeles Kings Anze Kopitar/Matjaz Kopitar Feb. 27 at Detroit
Minnesota Wild Nick Schultz Robert Schultz Feb. 27 at Calgary
Montreal Canadiens Mike Komisarek/Aleksey Nikiforov Feb. 28 vs. San Jose
Nashville Predators David Legwand/Dave and Carole Legwand Feb. 28 vs. Detroit
New York Islanders Josh Bailey/Mickey Renaud Feb. 28 vs. Buffalo
New York Rangers Wade Redden/Pat Redden Feb. 28 vs. Colorado
Ottawa Senators Daniel Alfredsson/Hasse Alfredsson Feb. 28 vs. Toronto
Philadelphia Flyers Mike Richards/Mark Richards/Matt Richards Feb. 27 vs. Montreal
Pittsburgh Penguins Eric Godard/Bill Higgins Feb. 27 at Chicago
San Jose Sharks Joe Thornton/Brian Muscat Feb. 28 at Montreal
Tampa Bay Lightning Matt Pettinger/Allan Neale Feb. 27 at Vancouver
Toronto Maple Leafs Dominic Moore/Brad Selwood Feb. 28 at Ottawa
Vancouver Canucks Kevin Bieksa/Scott Jess Feb. 27 vs. Tampa Bay
Washington Capitals Alexander Ovechkin/Zinetulla Bilyaletdinov Feb. 28 at Boston
About Right To Play
Right To Play is an international humanitarian organization that uses sport and play programs to improve health, develop life skills and foster peace for children and communities in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the world. Working in both the humanitarian and development context, Right To Play trains local community leaders as Coaches to deliver our programs in 23 countries affected by war, poverty and disease across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America. Right To Play is supported by an international team of top athletes from more than 40 countries. As role models, these athletes inspire children, raise awareness and promote opportunities for funding for Right To Play projects.
|My morning links||02.21.09 at 11:59 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Another chilly morning in the Florida sun for me and another round of morning hockey links for you. Should be a pretty spirited game between the Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers tonight as the Panthers continue to mull whether they are playoff-contending buyers or pretending sellers in the current trade market.
Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester is a huge piece at the deadline that could put quite a few teams over the top as he enters unrestricted free agency at the end of the hockey season, and he voiced a desire to go to a hockey organization committed to winning this season during a recent conversation with him.
“You think a little bit (about the future),” said Bouwmeester. “I know the situation and there’s a lot of things I have to consider. It’s a process. For me it’s about going about my business, and it’s about playing hockey and you don’t have to make that too complicated.
“You don’t rule anything out, and we’ve actually been playing some pretty good hockey (in Florida). So that’s exciting,” added Bouwmeester. “There’s been a lot of ups and downs during my career there, but we’re playing well this season. So that’s something to think about.”
On to the links:
–Colorado Avalanche forward Ryan Smyth, known for his scoring touch and gritty game, told the Denver Post that he won’t be waiving his “no movement clause” and Avalanche management hasn’t approached him about a deal. His long term, big money contract made him a bad fit for the Bruins anyway, but you can officially cross him off the list now.
–Big blueliner Chris Pronger, who might become available to the B’s as the Ducks are free-falling out into nothin’ out in the Western Conference, was roundly booed last night by Detroit Red Wings fans after a Pronger milestone was announced at Joe Louis Arena during the Ducks/Wings game. The gritty, borderline-dirty play that intimidates many and makes him Public Enemy No. 1 is exactly what would make Pronger such a snug fit in Boston. Pronger and Zdeno Chara patrolling the same line blue line is downright unfair. A doff of the helmet to Yahoo! blogger Puck Daddy for this one.
–Mark Recchi is another guy that could be a cheaper fit for the Bruins in the lefty shot/UFA mold when it comes to trade deadline deals, and he’ll likely be even cheaper after hitting the bench for the sinking Tampa Bay Lightning recently. For the record, Recchi has a solid 37 points this season and is averaging 16:52 in ice time for Tampa.
|Bruins won’t be headed for European opener next season||02.19.09 at 4:04 pm ET|
Though it seemed like a natural fit for P.J. Axelsson to enjoy a homecoming in Stockholm or for Zdeno Chara to have a hero’s welcome in Trencin, Czechoslovakia, the NHL announced this afternoon that the Red Wing, Blues, Blackhawks and Panthers will be the four teams opening the 2009-10 season in Europe next year. There were previous rumblings that the B’s were being considered for “NHL Premiere 2009″, but instead the four teams will play respective games in Sweden and Finland on Oct. 2-3.
|Bruins make Highlight Reel at NHL All-Star Game||01.25.09 at 10:57 pm ET|
MONTREAL — The biggest lingering impression from All-Star Weekend in Montreal?
The Bruins cast just as big a hockey shadow during the Friday-through-Sunday festivities at the Bell Centre as they have while carving up the Eastern Conference during the hockey season’s first half. Once again the B’s came into the Habs’ backyard and took things over more than a little bit — even if Prima Donna Russian forward Alex Kovalev nabbed MVP honors with his shootout winner in the 12-11 victory for the Eastern Conference.
Rookie Blake Wheeler started things off by nabbing MVP honors in the YoungStars Game on Saturday, and Zdeno Chara followed by obliterating the record for the NHL’s hardest shot with a 105.4 mph blast that furthered the Bunyan-esque growing legend of Big Z. It was obviously an important moment for Chara as — after the game — he politely declined a Hockey Hall of Fame official’s request to procure the stick used to break the record. That particular 65 inch Easton stick is going back home to the Chara trophy case, but the towering D-man instead gladly donated one of his sticks used during actual All-Star Game action.
Tim Thomas was at his flip-flopping and leap-frogging best during the entire exhibition weekend. The B’s goaltender distanced himself from the other All-Star masked men by challenging every single shot at every opportunity. Thomas pretty much morphed into a little boy in his own driveway turning away bid after bid from the older neighborhood kids. After allowing some goals early in the third period, he zoned into true shutdown mode over the final four minutes of the third period, overtime and then in the shootout against Shane Doan and Rick Nash.
Here’s youtube to help out with an OT and shootout that were pretty entertaining…Thomas save on Iginla comes at the 3:38 mark of overtime.
The victory makes Thomas the winning goaltender in each of the last two All-Star Games, the fifth time in NHL All-Star Game history that a goalie has captured the W in two consecutive games. The others are Frank Brimsek (1947, 48), Jacques Plante (1958, 59), Johnny Bower (1961, 62) and Martin Brodeur (1997, 98). Thomas made a trademark sliding save against Jarome Iginla on the doorstep during overtime — one of his three saves in OT — that saved the game for the Eastern Conference and helped push them through the victorious shootout.
Not bad for a guy that didn’t even appear on the All-Star ballot this season.
Marc Savard picked up three assists during the game centering a high-wattage line that featured Dany Heatley on his right wing and Alex Ovechkin along his left, and the B’s playmaker was also the final runner-up in Saturday’s newly adopted elimination shootout event.
Bruins coach Claude Julien exited the weekend exuding his trademark class after opting for the high road at each and every turn while truly embracing the All-Star opportunity — a choice that others might not have taken while visiting the site of a former coaching job that ended with a pink slip. A firing of Julien back in 2006 made way for current Habs coach and Eastern Conference All-Star assistant coach Guy Carbonneau.
Instead Julien sat back and watched his players excel during the NHL’s showcase of their best and brightest, and then rolled out the pucks in last night’s game until things tightened up in the third period.
“I think this has been an outstanding weekend,” said Julien. “You can talk to any player, talk to any coaches. The way it’s been organized by this organization. The way the people that came to Montreal — and the Montreal fans — the way they’ve reacted to all of this has just made this whole weekend outstanding.
“Our players really enjoyed it,” added Julien. “They had a great weekend. They represented us extremely well.”
That being said, here’s a taste of what the Bruins’ participants will be taking away from All-Star weekend:
Tim Thomas: “The feeling of victory after we won shootout. Even though it’s an All-Star game and it’s supposed to be about fun — and it’s not supposed to be about being competitive. But every single person in here is a competitor. It doesn’t mean anything in the long run, but it’s just like if you’re out in the driveway and you scored a goal. That feeling you get, you know. It felt the same to me as any other shootout.
Zdeno Chara: “The skills competition. It was very special to me. It’s something that I’ll never forget and it’s something that can only happen to you a few times in your lifetime and in your career. I’ve always said before that records are made to be broken, and I’m just glad that I could get this one over with. It took 16 or 17 years to break this record, so we’ll see how long it takes to break this one.”
Claude Julien: “You come here to have fun, but you also have a lot of pride and you want to represent your organization well. All of our guys were outstanding. Tim stood tall in the shootout, and even that save with the stretched out pad. Z winning the competition with his shot. Savvy making it to the last two in the shootout. An MVP for Wheeler. Every single one of our players stood out at one point, and that’s great for the organization. Those certainly made the organization proud.”
Blake Wheeler: “I came away from the weekend just really impressed with watching all of these players up close, and just seeing how they go about their day-to-day business. For me it was a behind-the-scenes look at everything, and I just came away so impressed with everybody here. It was a fun weekend, for sure.”
|Chara puts Right To Play in the spotlight||at 2:37 pm ET|
MONTREAL — Zdeno Chara defended his title as owner of the NHL’s hardest slapshot when he fired off a 105.4 mph blast in his final attempt during Saturday night’s All-Star SuperSkills competition at the Bell Centre. The feat of hockey strength marked the third straight year that the 6-foot-9 defenseman snagged the hardest shot hardware, but there was a bit more of a humanistic spin to this season’s victory.
With a bright yellow “Right to Play” toque sitting atop his giant Slovakian cranium following the performance, Chara reared back and fired an NHL-record 105.4 mph slat shot that won the competition and banked $24,000 for his favorite Right to Play charity. Chara’s booming shot broke former B’s defenseman Al Iafrate’s record of 105.2 mph set back in the 1993 skills competition, and the money raised for charity put a well-intentioned, altruistic spin on the proceedings.
Right To Play is a Canadian charity that, according to its web site, is “creating a healthier and safer world for children through the power of sport and play.” Both B’s defenseman Andrew Ference and Chara have traveled to Africa to witness the work done by Right To Play with African children first-hand, and have continued serving as ambassadors to the program.
The gesture even quieted the Montreal crowd, who normally save their lustiest boos for the intense and physical Chara during heated Habs/Bruins games.
“I gave it all that I had, and I’m glad it worked out,” said Chara. “That’s the highest I’ve ever shot (a puck). I’ve been a few times around 103, 104, 102 (mph). You know, you always want to shoot the hardest shot, but it’s the All-Star record, so I’m very happy.”
Chara and Right To Play Deputy Director Mark Brender were locked in a joyful embrace following the Bruins defenseman’s rousing victory for both himself and charity, and shared a few thoughts about Chara’s relationship with Right To Play — and his own mad scramble to find a gold-ish Right to Play hat that Chara could wear on television while breaking land speed records with his shot.
That was a pretty dramatic win for Chara. MB:Yeah, I know he was really pumped to do it and he was really excited and happy about doing it. So, you could tell how happy he was and he is really committed. Obviously for us to have a champion like him — and like Andrew Ference who helped Z get into it — and all of the other NHL guys is huge. It’s the kind of money and exposure that will go directly to help children develop through playing sports.
What does it mean for the program to have a guy like Z climbing up Mt. Kilimanjaro and visiting Africa this summer, and all of the other things that he does for the program? MB: It gives us so much credibility. A lot of times when pro athletes lend their name to a cause, it’s really just in-and-out. But when a guy like (Chara) gets involved he is so committed that he gives us credibility when we say that we have athlete ambassadors. We have many, many Olympic athlete ambassadors and it was born under the Olympic movement.
So it’s a great thing to have pros like Z and many other NHLers as well because there’s a lot of credibility to them. (Raising money in the skills competition) shows it’s more than just lending their name. It’s believing in it, and that’s something that really shows.
How gung ho is Z about Right to Play? It seems as if he mentions it a lot in his day-to-day world of hockey. MB: Yeah. He went to Mozambique this summer with us and he got to see the impact of our work. When you go a town a couple of hours north of the capital city and then you see 16-year-olc coaches, who are leading 400 children and through that you can do all kinds of developmental things, and talk about education and HIV and things like that.
So he has seen that work, and when you see that work then you come back and see the emotions that you have. That’s why (he’s still involved).
Word trickled out that he had made the challenge. When did you find out about it? MB:The Bruins were in Toronto on Wednesday and he and Andrew went out to dinner the night before and conceived of this thing then. It was in the works for a little bit that they had been planning something. Andrew and Zdeno are very good together.
You must have been pretty happy to see the Right to Play hat out there? MB: He actually asked for the hat when we were in Toronto, so we had to go digging to find one. He said “make it Bruins colors, make it Bruins colors.” So went went digging and found a yellow one that was actually from the 2006 Olympics. I’m really happy it worked out.
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