By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON -- There is little wonder why Zdeno Chara is the captain of the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.
Chara flew to Slovakia earlier this week to attend the funeral services for good friend Pavol Demitra after the standout former Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks scorer was among the people killed in the KHL Lokomotiv plane crash in Russia.
But the 6-foot-9 Bruins defenseman also made certain he flew immediately back on Friday and arrived in Boston during the early morning hours of Saturday morning. Chara swallowed his still fresh emotions of hurt and loss, and got back to work on the ice Saturday during the first day of Bs training camp along with the rest of the players.
Chara was helping out youngsters like Dougie Hamilton and setting the perfect Black and Gold example despite an extremely heavy heart.
The exhaustion was clear on Charas face once practice was over, and the anguish was clear in his voice while on the verge of tears recalling the Slovakian services for Demitra. For a player that achieved the pinnacle of winning a Stanley Cup for his Bruins team back in June, its been an unwanted emotional roller coaster for the stoic defenseman.
Im tired . . . Im exhausted. But at least Im going to get a good nights sleep tonight, said Chara. I wanted to practice today obviously. I dont want to miss any days. If I did it wouldnt have been a big deal. It would have been for a good reason.
This summer has been a really crazy summer. It has been a summer of the high of the highs and the low of the lows. Obviously were going to miss all those guys and its very unfortunate. Its a big tragedy. It was a really weird summer. Mixed emotions but we have to move on . . . we have to move on.
Its apparent that the loss of his neighbor has understandably worn on Chara over the last week, and there might not be any real closure anytime soon. Demitra and his family were among the small circle of friends and relatives invites to Charas Cup party in Trencin over the summer, and the loss hit too close to home for the towering defenseman.
He was my neighbor and we shared a lot of great moments and stories together, Chara said. Its very sad you know. Obviously you lose a guy like that and its not easy.
It does, Chara said of training camp getting his mind off his loss. You have to stay busy, go about your business and do your job . . . Sorry guys. Its a tough loss.
While Chara will certainly benefit from a return to the routine of training camp, coach Claude Julien said hed allow his stalwart defenseman a wide berth to operate from with so much upheaval over the last few weeks.
I would have been willing to give him that time off if he wanted it, but he really wanted to go on the ice today for a bunch of reasons, said Julien. Hes got new equipment, he takes his job as a leader very seriously and he felt it would be good for him to get a good little workout in.
He looked tired and he told me that he was. Just the fact that he came out was nice to see. He showed a great example today of guy thats dedicated despite everything hes been through in the last week or so. He lost a pretty good friend that he was close to and I think emotionally it took a toll on him this past week. This is training camp and its probably a good time to give him a little space and allow him to work his way back into feeling good.
It may take a few days or weeks before Chara is truly feeling good, but getting back with his team on Saturday was a step in the right direction for the Slovakian strongman.