Mary Paoletti's 1-on-1 with Zdeno Chara

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Mary Paoletti's 1-on-1 with Zdeno Chara

More of Mary Paoletti's interview with Zdeno Chara:

You seem like someone who takes comfort in control. Are there times out there when you feel like you're out of control on the ice? That a situation is out of control?
I don't feel that way. There are times when we are losing games or when the opposite team is playing really well . . . there are parts of the season when you're going to lose games and you aren't playing your best hockey . . . but never I feel like we are -- or I am -- out of control of the situation. You're going to win some and you're going to lose some and you're going to try to win as many as possible and to win more than you lose, but . . . I would maybe correct that. Maybe not as being a control person. I'm a very organized person. I like being organized and to know what we are doing and how to get better. I'm a disciplined person.

I've noticed is that you're often handling the blade of your stick...you're doing it almost every time a play dies. What is that? Is that just a habit?
Smiles It may be a little bit of a habit. I don't like to have frozen snow on my blade. Or ripped tape. I just don't know why, I immediately have to cut it out or get rid of that frozen snow or ice. It really changes the direction of the way you pass and move the puck.

In April of 2009 you were asked what your greatest career moment was and you said you hadn't had it yet. Can there be a greater moment in your career than winning a Stanley Cup? What would satisfy someone like you who's so driven?
For sure, winning the Stanley Cup would be top of the list before leaving hockey, right? Winning Norris trophy was really, really a nice feeling. It was great. It is something that, even if it is personal or individual, I feel like the team helped me. It's such a great satisfaction that all that hard work paid off. Maybe some people are not believing me being the right captain or they are questioning my leadership. I want to prove them wrong. I think I am the right captain.

You're going to be, what, 330 or so kilometers from where you grew up when you're in Prague? What does it mean to be so close to home?
It means a lot. I'll be nervous for sure, playing in front all my friends and family live. But at the same time, I already did that. But it's going to be a little bit crazy I think, there's might be meetings with a lot of my friends and family. I have to make sure it doesn't affect my rink time or the time I spend with the team. It's going to be exciting, something different.
Your schedule is crazy. You have to focus on the Coyotes but at the same time you have all these other things going on . . . family, friends, etc.
I'm going to try to make as much time as I can for them, but in a way that doesn't affect anything. If I have some time, yeah, I'll see them for half-an-hour, an hour. But I just got back, I saw them, what, a month ago? Two months ago? I just got back, so, I think they should be happy with the time I can give.

So tell me something about you. People ask you stuff all the time but you never get a chance to say anything unprompted.
Laughs I don't know. You'd have to ask me. I don't know what to tell ya' . . . Pauses Yeah. You'd have to ask me because I don't know where to begin.

All right. What's good for you right now? What makes you happy? I know you're a very disciplined guy and training makes you happy . . . blah blah blah, we've heard that before . . .
A few things. Being healthy is number one: I'm happy when I'm healthy. Nothing really bothers me or my family when we're healthy. I'm happy when we are winning. I'm happy when . . . long pause . . . I don't see any big changes, bad changes with what's going on in the world . . . like when there's a leak in oil. There's so much bad stuff happening. When none of that's happening it makes me happy.

What sacrifices have you made?
Well, I made a lot of my sacrifices when I was quite young. When all my friends from school, or even the teams I played on went out, had a good time, went to movies, went to playgrounds or whatever, I stayed home and I worked out, I went for a run, I went on my bike . . . So, that fun part that they had, I didn't. But I spent a lot of that time trying to get better. And, believe me, now I love it. I love that I can do what I love. And now when I meet with friends they wish they had sacrificed as much as I did, or anybody else. Now they have to get up at six in the morning and work 'til four in the afternoon at jobs they don't love. They missed their train. Now it's gone. It's one of those things with growing up. You get to choose what you want to do. I was very lucky, I guess, in the way that my dad was an athlete and he helped me work out when I was very young. Otherwise it would be too late. But now I don't really take it as much as sacrifice. I take it as, that's my job and that's what I do. You can be complaining about it or you can be excited about it.

From what I've read about you, it sounds like you had impressive maturity at a young age. When you were young, coaches told you you shouldn't play hockey and you had said something like, "a growing guy needs time to adjust to his body." How did you know that at age 14?
I didn't. I found that out later on. I think that sometimes coaches, they only see guys who are scoring goals -- which is fine, naturally, it's what you always like is players that are very skilled who will perform for you -- but especially when I was younger, they didn't realize I was still growing, I was still getting taller and taller, and my body had to fill in with muscle and I had to learn coordination and all that. And it took some time and they didn't give it to me. So I had to leave and I had to go where they gave me enough time. And they didn't give it to me back home so I had to leave to another country. And I was 18 and I was living on my own, which wasn't easy. But being in a different country at 18 and living totally on your own . . . there was no adults, there was no somebody I was living with, I was totally on my own. I had one bedroom apartment and they gave me some money and said, 'Take care of yourself.' So, that's when it hits you. That's when it hits you that you have to really mature, it's your job. You can't be a kid anymore. It was such a big change . . . buying groceries, you have to cook for yourself, laundry smiling, laughing, eyes wide . . . clearly a big deal you were like, "Oh my God!" At 18 you were like, 'This is so hard.' But you get used to it and that's when really you have to mature because, again, I was going from a Junior to a men's team. And even the conversations in the locker room, it was so different, there was no like, 'Hey, uh, something I don't know . . . '

'What are you doing this weekend?'
Yeah! It was like 'Hey, my family, my kids' and you're like 'Wha-wha-what?' All of the sudden these conversations, there was this different perspective and it was so different.

Do you think back to that time a lot?
Smiling Yeah! Yeah.

What do you think you took away from that besides responsibility?
Exhales deeply Well, take care of myself, most of all. Up to that time your parents are taking care of you . . . cooking for you most of the time, doing your laundry, and all that stuff. And all of a sudden, you know, most of all it's taking care of yourself and learn to talk like an adult. If you want to talk to the coach you do it yourself. It's like straightforward 1-on-1 with the coach or with the GM. So yeah, you had to know how to have conversations on different levels and be an adult.

Backes: 'Time will be the judge' on his long-term deal with Bruins

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Backes: 'Time will be the judge' on his long-term deal with Bruins

JAMAICA PLAIN – Newest Bruins forward David Backes has heard the trepidation from Bruins fans about the five-year term of his contract, and he’s probably also caught wind of St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong stating publicly that contract length was an area he was uncomfortable getting to on a theoretical extension with his outbound.

The prevailing wisdom is that the decade of rugged, physical play from the 32-year-old in St. Louis will cause him to start slowing down sooner rather than later, and the last couple of seasons won’t be as high quality as the first couple in Boston.

So what does the actual player think about any questions surrounding his five year, $30 million contract?

The 6-foot-3, 221-pound Backes confidently said that concerns about his age, or him slowing down demonstrably in the last few years of his new contract, are “a bunch of malarkey” to borrow a favorite phrase from Vice President Joe Biden.

“I’m 32, not 52. Time will tell, but I feel really good and I take care of my body. I lay it all on the line, but when I’m not at the rink I’m resting and recovering for the next time I have to pour it all into a game,” said Backes, who logged 727 hard-hitting games all with the St. Louis Blues organization over the last 10 seasons. “Time will be the judge, but I feel like [after] five years I’ll even have a couple more [seasons] after that.

“I don’t think this is going to be end. That’s my plan. I’m still going to get better over the next five years, and hopefully have a couple of opportunities to hoist that big trophy I’ve been chasing around for the last 10 years.”

One area of concern from last season: the 21 goals and 45 points in 79 games for the Blues were Backes’ lowest totals over a full season since his first few years in the league. It might be the first signs of decline in a player that’s logged some heavy miles, or it could be a simple down season for a player that’s always focused on setting the physical tone, and defense, just as much as his offensive output at the other end of the ice.

As Backes himself said, “time will be judge” of just how well the five year contract turns out for a natural leader that will undoubtedly give the Bruins a boost as a hard-nosed, top-6 forward as he moves into the Boston phase of his NHL career.

Thursday, July 28: Will the Bruins end up with Jimmy Vesey?

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Thursday, July 28: Will the Bruins end up with Jimmy Vesey?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading after a pretty amazing, on-point succession of speeches by Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg and Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention last night. It was quite a contrast to the absolute circus sideshow that went on in Cleveland last week.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Greg Wyshynksi chronicles the Jimmy Vesey Sweepstakes, and the late entry of the Chicago Blackhawks as a suitor. Wysh still feels, as I do, that the Bruins end up getting this talented player at the end of the day.

*The details of the charges levied against Evander Kane paint an ugly picture of a hockey player doing a lot of the wrong things.

*PHT writer Mike Halford says that the Carolina Hurricanes might be ready to snap their playoff drought after extending head coach Bill Peters.

*John Tavares tells the Toronto media not to count on him ever pulling over a Maple Leafs jersey amid post-Stamkos speculation.

*Well, would you look at this? The Nashville Predators are providing salary cap and contract info on their own team website. What a concept!

*The Edmonton Oilers say they will have a new captain in place by opening night, and it will be interesting to see if they go the Connor McDavid route.

*Brian Elliott is thrilled at the opportunity to be “the man” between the pipes for the Calgary Flames this season after splitting time in St. Louis.

*For something completely different: a great feature on Howard Stern, and his transformation from shock jock to master interviewer.

Joe Haggerty can be followed on Twitter: @HacksWithHaggs

Bergeron and Marchand convinced Backes to join Bruins

Bergeron and Marchand convinced Backes to join Bruins

JAMAICA PLAIN -- For those excited about the idea of an intense, hard-hitting David Backes in a Bruins uniform for the next five years, you have Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand to partially thank.

Backes, 32, didn’t know either of them all that well prior to this summer, aside from his experiences on ice against them. But Bergeron and Marchand called Backes multiple times while recruiting him to Boston, and it was a major factor in the former Blues captain signing a five-year, $30 million deal with the B's.

“Being an outsider, we need to have a little bit of confession here that Marchand is the kind of guy that gets under everybody’s skin. I was no different,” said the 6-foot-3, 221-pound Backes, who has 206 goals and 460 points in 727 career NHL games, all with St. Louis. “But then talking to him a little bit in the interview process prior to July 1, I hung up the phone and had to take a deep breath and say to myself, ‘That little disturber, he’s actually a pretty good guy.’ Those guys end up being the best teammates.

“A guy like Bergeron, when you play against him [he's] always in the right spot, and is never making mistakes. Those types of guys, again, are guys you want on your team, and guys you want to go to war with. They’re All-World players, Bergeron is an All-World player. But he’s also a down-to-earth guy that puts his work boots on, takes his lunch pail and plays his butt off. He’s nice to the young kids, and he’s nurturing in helping them come along. I think you’ve seen in the NHL that you need a few guys on entry-level deals, or a few guys to outperform their contracts, in order to have success in the salary-cap era. That nurturing and mentorship can really foster those kinds of performances.”

While Backes went on to mention Zdeno Chara as another highly respected, formidable opponent with whom he’ll now share a dressing room, it was interesting to note that players who currently have letters on their sweaters, like Chara and David Krejci, didn’t play a part in the recruiting process. Instead it was the next captain of the team (Bergeron) and a player (Marchand) currently in the middle of negotiations entering the last year of his contract.

“I talked to both Bergeron and Marchand twice before July 1," said Backes. "Just the way that they spoke about their team mentality, and teaming up together and sharing the load of hard minutes that need to be played, and also sharing the load of the offensive necessities that a team has . . . those things just rang true to my beliefs of a team.

“You’re all equals whether you’re the top-paid guy, or the top-minute guy, or the low-minute guy, or the guy that’s playing every other game because you’re the healthy scratch in the other games.

“We all needed to be treated equal, and do whatever we can to support the next guy. When the next guy has success, we have to be just as happy as if we scored the goal. That’s the type of thing where, when you get that from the full 20 guys on the ice, it’s so tough to be beat. Those are the teams that win championships.”

It will be interesting to see just how much involvement Backes has with the Bergeron and Marchand combination. He could very easily be a right-wing fit with those two dynamic forwards next season, or he could be a third-line center behind Bergeron and Krejci and give the Bruins elite depth down the middle of the ice.

True to his team-oriented nature, Backes said he’ll be happy to play at either position and do whatever Claude Julien feels is best.