Much like every other NHL player, Zdeno Chara thought the NHL lockout would be over by now.
The Bruins Captain has spent the bulk of the hockey season in Prague skating for HC Lev Prague of the KHL while the NHL cancels games due to a labor disagreement, and Chara has done well enough. Hes playing for a mediocre sub-.500 KHL club, but Chara has put up nine points (4 goals, 5 assists) in 20 games along with a plus-3. At one point the Prague club had lost eight games in a row and Chara was a minus player while skating in a quicker, less physical league.
The plan is to stay in shape, experience a new league and just kind of roll with things until we see an end to the lockout here, said Chara.
Chara said he chose Prague mainly because he enjoyed the city and because that franchise showed the most interest in him. The 6-foot-9 defenseman also cited that it was close to his hometown of Trencin, but Chara admitted hes only made it home once in the last three months while playing in Europe.
Its a really long, four hour drive and its difficult to do when you literally practice every day over there, said Chara.
The Bs defenseman talked a little bit about his KHL experience while practicing this week in Boston during a 10-day holiday break in the European season. He caught up with teammates like Shawn Thornton and Tuukka Rask, and now Chara will head back to the Czech Republic and continue playing in Europe while waiting for an end in CBA negotiations.
For sure its different. Everything is different, said Chara. The way they play. The way they have systems. The way they travel. The way they practice. You have to get used to it, but once you get used to it you get in the same routine and you get going.
I dont know if the league is faster. There are games that are played at a pretty good pace. For sure its a less physical league, but you do have some games where youll see a few big hits and battles. But I do think the game over here is faster because its on a smaller ice surface.
Chara certainly factors into some of those big hits in the KHL this season, as anybody thats watched him nail Slovakian buddy Miroslav Satan twice in the same game would attest.
But the Bs defenseman has made the adjustment and continues to stay sharp waiting for the NHL lockout to end. Yes, Chara is hopeful that there will be a 2013 NHL hockey season despite the lockout clearing 90 days of existence this weekend. But hes also incredibly wary that he could lose two full seasons of a potential Hall of Fame career because the NHL and NHLPA couldnt hammer out a deal.
Its at a point where Im not getting frustrated or excited anymore. Im just waiting for a final decision, said a matter of fact Chara. Every time I got excited, the next day I got frustrated when talks were moved back. The same thing the other way when you got different news. You stay positive and you get some good news. Thenboomtwo days later youd get bad news.
Its a roller coaster of emotions where you have ups and downs. I find myself in a position where I want to stay neutral and see whether its going to get done or not.
Is it hard to fathom that the NHL could cancel another season during his playing career?
It would be a shame. Yeah, said Chara. You want to play. You want to do your job as a professional athlete. Its your job to perform and be an entertainer.
But at the same time you have to know you can only play under certain conditions. If those arent met then that job would be put in risk and it would be hard to perform. You would still do your best, but for the next generation of players it would be even harder and harder.
There are many approaching things just like Chara. Theyre now numb to the rhetoric and the negotiating tactics, and they simply want to know whether or not there will be an NHL season. For now Chara will head back to the KHL and will only return to Boston if the news end up being good for the NHL and its players.