Zdeno Chara isn’t just one of the most iconic defensemen in league history; he’s also one of the kindest. He was a great teammate, and everyone who played with him says the same thing: Few have cared so much about those around him as Big Z did.
But Chara was also a winner and always played with temper. You can’t have that kind of career without having a winning mentality, and Chara proved year after year what a great mindset he had.
Chara is also the tallest NHL player in history, and he often had to drop the gloves. When now-retired tough guy Mark Borowiecki wanted to make a name for himself as a fighter, Chara was one of the first people he wanted to go with.
Over the years, Borowiecki went after Chara several times, and the courage earned respect from Chara.
Borowiecki had previously been absolutely destroyed when they fought, but he never gave up. And Chara loved it.
“So, our first game at UPS, which was his last season at the new rink there, I was skating around in warmups,” Borowiecki said in the Coming In Hot podcast (h/t RMNB). “Again I’d been running around that year. Someone comes over from my team and goes ‘Hey, Zee, wants to talk to you.’ I was like ‘Oh, god, he wants to talk to me during warmups. He wants to fight me.’”
Borowiecki thought Chara wanted to fight him during the game, but he was wrong. What happened instead is something Borowiecki would never forget.
“So I skate over to the red, and he’s standing there and I’m looking up at him, and here I am thinking he’s going to ask me to go, and he goes ‘Can you sign a stick for me and send it over after the game?’ I was like looking around going ‘You want one of my sticks?’ He was like ‘Yeah, I’m going to be done playing, I’m collecting.’ I’m like’ You want my stick?’ And he’s like ‘Yes!’ I was like ‘Okay, man.’ Me and Zee have a good relationship now.”
To this day, the two of them are real-life friends, and they still message each other on Instagram from time to time.
“I really respected how he aged in the league and was still such a viable player,” Borowiecki said. “Prior to the injuries that did me in, I would have loved to be like that guy who kept finding jobs and was still valuable.”