By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- Hockey fans have known the name Zdeno Chara for the past 20 years. After all, it's kind of hard to not notice the 6-foot-9 defenseman who spends his time punishing forwards and cranking slap shots all over the ice.
But up until this year, the hockey world might not have really known him. Fortunately, over the past few months, the 41-year-old Chara has let the world in.
That effort really showed in his thoughtful posts on his new Instagram account, and it continued in a new profile in Sports Illustrated. The story, written by Alex Hewitt, explores just how Chara has managed to get better this late in his career, and how he makes playing until age 45 seem like a reasonable goal.
Among the many interesting tidbits, the story revealed:
--Chara has "solid command" of five languages and "passable knowledge" of four other languages. Looking back at a 2003 SI feature on Chara, the languages he has down are Slovak, Czech, Russian, German and English. In 2003, he was planning to study Spanish. It would appear as though he made some headway in that area, as well as with three other languages.
--He's kept a record of every workout he's ever done. Ever. Prewitt describes some details, including how many pucks Chara shot on a random August day four years ago ... as well as the duration of a mountain bike ride in the summer of 1996.
--Chara doesn't subscribe to any advanced monitoring of his health and fitness. Instead, it's all "feel-based." And as his former defensive teammate in Boston explained, the only trainer Chara needs is someone who will tell him to work out less. "He needs people to tug on his reins: 'Zee, you're playing 28 minutes a night, we're in the playoffs, you don't need to go into the gym and have a full workout after the game,'" Ference explained to Prewitt.
--Aside from the obvious reasons, Chara really enjoyed going to the Olympics ... to watch other Olympians warm up. "For me, that [was] like heaven," Chara said of being able to observe the world's greatest athletes in person.
--This isn't a revelation, but is nevertheless jarring: Chara's defensive partner, Charlie McAvoy, was born 32 days after Chara's NHL debut in 1997. The 41-year-old and the 20-year-old rank Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, for Bruins ice time this season.
--How does Zdeno Chara spend his offseasons? By wrestling other men. Where some players kick back and relax on the lake, Chara dials up his father's wrestlers (his father is the longtime coach of the Slovakian national wrestling team) for some classic Greco-Roman grappling. Unfortunately, though, he's running out of friends to wrestle: "Not as much as I used to -- all the other guys are retired."
--And in what is the most comprehensive explanation of Chara's work ethic, there is this: He once asked his coaches if he could play a full 60 minutes. The coaches of the Senators -- his team at the time -- said no, but according to one coach quoted in the article, "We all agreed that he could've done it."
The story is more than worth reading in full, and in all, it's yet another fascinating peek behind the scenes at how Chara continues to be one of the best defensemen in the NHL, even as he skates against the best players in the world, many of whom are half his age. And if his career continues as planned for the next several years, it's hard to predict what more we all might learn about him.
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