Zdeno Chara is one of the all-time legends in hockey, and his numbers in the league are almost unmatched. He’s the defenseman with the most games played, and he’s played in the NHL for a sensational 24 seasons.
But it wasn’t always evident that he would make it to the highest level of hockey. As a young, 6-foot-9 Slovakian, the potential was there, but he had already been passed over the draft back in 1995.
In 1996, the New York Islanders showed interest in Chara, but there wasn’t much information about him. At that time, Mike Milbury was the general manager of the Islanders, and according to The Athletic, all he had on Chara was a videotape of the young defenseman doing drills with a coach.
Milbury recalls a conversation with a scout, who recommended him to pick Chara early in the second round. But the scout reports didn’t convince the then general manager.
So, Milbury asked for an interview with Chara, and it didn’t take long until the beast convinced him.
Milbury asked Chara if he could fight, and the Slovakian gave an answer that took Milbury by storm.
“Better not to fuck with me,” Chara said.
That summer, the Islanders selected Chara in the third round.
And yes, Chara’s answer about fighting kind of sealed the deal.
“That endeared him to me right away,” Milbury says.
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