Former NHL defenseman and current Sportsnet and Hockey Night In Canada analyst Jason York is forever grateful that he got to finish his NHL career playing 49 games for the Boston Bruins in the 2006-07 season. York is specifically thankful that he got to be teammates with longtime Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. York played parts of 14 seasons in the show and on Thursday he told Jeff Marek, Anthony Stewart, and Brian Burke on Sportsnet Hockey Central that Chara is the hardest working player he ever played with or against.
“It was a pretty cool experience,” York recalled. “Number 1, I’ve never seen a guy that big do so many chin-ups. We’ve talked about that a few times on ‘Ice Surfing’. This is no lie guys! ‘Big Zee’ is what? Six-nine is he? I’m pretty sure, 6-foot-9, 265 pounds then. This guy did 39 chin-ups and I’m just standing there watching. …and we’re talking to the chin, on the ticker, straight arms, and 39 of them!”
It’s well-documented how disciplined and hard-working Chara still is at age 43 and that’s why, regardless of if he returns to the Boston Bruins or not, York and many around the league still believe he will play another season with his first new team since he came to the Bruins as an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2006.
“He used to go to the gym, twice a day, on off days,” York said. “He’d go in for a morning workout and then go in again at night and workout again. This is why he’s still playing because he’s an absolute machine and back then it was his first year as captain so he was trying to figure things out but his work ethic, I’ve never seen a guy work like that. Off the ice, on the ice and always wanting to get better.”
As York pointed out, when Chara came into the league as a raw, tall and lanky rookie, opponents would take advantage of his awkward skating style. They would also chirp him and York believes that’s what motivated Chara to become a fitness machine and improve his two-way game.
“I remember ‘Big Zee’ when he first came into the league playing for the New York Islanders,” York recalled. “Guys used to laugh because he didn’t have the skills and say:
‘Dump it in Chara’s corner, he can’t do anything, he’s terrible.’
“But because he worked so hard on his game. …you guys remember when he came over to the Ottawa Senators? I wasn’t with Ottawa at the time and that’s when he really kind of changed his game and he worked on it,” York said.
“He worked on his hands and he worked on his skating. He’s a really smart guy and I think we’ve talked about this before, I think he speaks about six different languages. While he’s been playing, he’s gotten his real estate license and he’s just one of those guys who’s always self-improving and trying to make himself better.”