Bruins captain Zdeno Chara returns to Montreal for first time since standing ovation

Matt Kalman
November 26, 2019 - 10:04 am

Zdeno Chara doesn’t know when the tradition started, or exactly what the purpose is, but sometimes he does wonder why he’s the target of boos every time he touches the puck during a game in most opponents’ arenas.

“I don’t know where, but I remember I did say that. Must’ve been last year. I was sitting on the bench like ‘why are they booing me?’ I don’t know [where>, but I remember being on the bench like ‘why the hell are they booing me?’ But I remember because I was laughing like, ‘here? Why here?’” Chara recalled in chat with WEEI.com on Monday.

Chara and the Bruins will be in a building that probably has booed him the most over the years, Montreal’s Bell Centre, on Tuesday. The Canadiens fans always let Chara have it even before the March 2011 incident with Max Pacioretty, when a hard check unfortunately, accidentally forced the Montreal forward to collide with a stanchion. Montreal fans somehow decided Chara plotted the check, and since then the in-game expressions of hate have intensified.

But all that changed, at least for a brief moment, Nov. 5. That night Chara played in his 1,500th NHL game and during a television timeout the Canadiens called attention to the milestone, and the fans reacted with a standing ovation for one of their longest-reigning villains (remember Chara played several years with another rival, Ottawa, before coming to Boston).

“Like I said, I really appreciated that recognition and it was a really classy act,” Chara said.

But here’s the rub. It may sound during a game like Montreal hates Chara. He knows differently. When he’s away from the rink, the tone is completely different.

“Very nice. I have to say even in Montreal, like when it seems like I’m the biggest enemy, but when I walk in Montreal, people are so nice,” he said. “They want to take a picture, they want to talk to you, they want to be nice. They’re very classy, very nice. Here and there you’re going to have somebody say something [negative>, but it’s just normal. You have a hockey city, a hockey environment, they’re going to express their opinions. But in general, it’s nine out of 10, or even more, it’s so nice.

“A lot of the fans say [whispers>, ‘we are Boston fans too.’ There are a lot of Montreal fans that go like ‘I’m from Montreal but I cheer for you guys.’”

Well Chara might be back on the Montreal fans’ naughty list after revealing their dark secret, but at least if they go back to booing him, Chara will know why.

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