Zdeno Chara puts complaints about NHL playoff format in perspective: 'I think that we have to be grateful for the opportunity'

Scott McLaughlin
May 28, 2020 - 10:15 am

Zdeno Chara gets it. Talking to the media for the first time since the official introduction of the NHL's 24-team playoff format -- which includes a round-robin tournament to determine seeding for the top four teams in the conference -- the Bruins captain could've used the opportunity to express displeasure with the possibility that his team could now lose the No. 1 seed it worked all season to get.

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Chara did no such thing, though. Instead, he used the platform to praise the NHLPA for getting a deal done and put things in a real-world perspective.

"As far as the format, I think that the Players' Association with the player representatives worked extremely hard to get to this point and come up with something that hopefully will be entertaining and exciting and obviously fans will enjoy," Chara said. "It’s never a perfect scenario. It’s not going to be set in stone as it would have after an 82-game regular season, so I think you have to give these guys a lot of credit because they worked extremely hard to come up with the format that has been presented.

"...It’s not going to be perfect. I think you have to realize that any time you have this kind of unexpected stoppage with teams being at different points, different amount of games, you have to come up with some sort of solution. The people involved were almost daily talking to the player reps, players, different kind of advisors to come up with the best possible solution. I think at this point what we see is probably the best. It does affect everyone and every team, but it’s one of those things that you can’t really blame anyone or feel that it’s unfair.

"For us, I think that we have to be grateful for the opportunity we’re getting. When you kind of look at the real-life perspective, what other people’s families, businesses go through, it’s one of those things that we’re getting the opportunity to basically start almost where we ended the season. Not everybody’s getting the same chance. A lot of people lost a lot of financial support, businesses went down, and they’ll never get the same opportunities, so we have to be grateful for the opportunity and take it as a huge motivation and excitement and kind of embrace it."

Chara said these last few months have also helped put things in perspective in his own life.

"Definitely you appreciate what you have," he said. "When you look at the big picture, obviously this becomes very uncomfortable for many of us, and it’s affected so many people. I’m so grateful that I have family and that I’ve been able to spend some time with them and every day kind of play with my kids and see them interact and keep kind of improving in their skills. When you have a setback like this, you want to kind of step back and take a breather from the days or the routine you were involved in for so long.

"It kind of makes you realize that things are not always going to be perfect, there are going to be some challenges in your life. You just have to remind yourself of what kind of worked before when you’re facing some challenges and adversity and start implementing those same routines into coming back like we’re facing now. Mostly I’m very grateful and thankful that I’ve been able to have health with my family and spend some time with them."

Teams follow their leaders, and it's clear Chara is setting a good example in terms of his approach to this return. He's not going to complain or allow an "unfair" format to get into his head, and that means the rest of the Bruins will likely follow suit.

How the Bruins play if and when games resume remains to be seen, but at least their heads should be in the right place.

Here are some other notes from Chara's Zoom call with reporters:

- Chara is now back in Boston after driving up from Florida this week. He said he didn't want to risk flying.

- He said this is probably the longest he's gone without skating in his career, or at least the longest since the early years of his career when he used to take more time off after missing the playoffs or getting knocked out early.

- Chara said all the Bruins players have been staying in touch with each other as well with the team's strength and conditioning coaches, and that everyone has been doing the best they can to stay in shape and stay ready. He said it'll be nice to see everyone back at the team facilities, though, even if it's just in small groups to start.

- Chara said he knows there's going to be risk involved in any return, but that he hopes everything is safe enough and everyone healthy enough that the risk will be at a point where it's manageable.

- He said playing without fans will definitely be one of the biggest adjustments, noting that everyone loves playing in sold-out arenas, especially in the playoffs, and that players often feed off that energy.

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