About a broken jaw, captaincy and hazing in the NHL.
Zdeno Hara while performing in NHL became a legend. The Slovak defender played in the best league in the world up to 45 years and ended his professional career only at the end of last season. Hara played for Boston for 14 seasons. With the team, he won the Stanley Cup in 2011. In total, he played 24 seasons in the best league in the world, forever writing his name in its history.
Hara came to the famous podcast Spittin’ Chiclets and told a lot of interesting things about his hockey life. One of the most incredible stories is his performance with a broken jaw in the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals. Then “Boston” lost in seven matches to “St. Louis”, which took the trophy for the first time in history. Hara broke his jaw in the fourth match – after an unsuccessful rebound, the puck hit him in the mouth area. The next day, the hockey player underwent surgery. And left in the fifth game. There were three more meetings in total, in all of them he played, on average at 18:23.
Hara said that he wanted to return to the ice already in the fourth match after the collision, as a result, the doctors did not allow him to do this, he only sat on the bench in the third period – this was already a feat.
“We stayed overnight in St. Louis. I did not sleep. There was bleeding and pain. I just waited and waited for the morning to come. Finally, I got on the plane, and immediately went from the airport to the hospital, where I had an operation. When I woke up after the operation, I felt good. Don Sweeney (Boston GM) and Cam Neely (club president) came to me and asked how I was feeling. I said, “I feel good. I think I’ll try to play.”
They looked at me, “Well, anyway, he’s probably still under the influence of morphine right now.”
I talked to doctors, they warned me about the consequences and risks. “Okay, I accept everything and I’m ready to try.”
The next morning he went out on the ice. And I ran into a lot of problems.
“I’m like, ‘Okay, I feel good. But how will I have lunch? Okay, there was a blender. I tried to cram in as much as possible. But it turned out to be difficult.”
He played in a special closed mask, plates were inserted into it and screws were screwed in. Hara also revealed that he had many other injuries in the playoffs. Playing in the final, he did not know that he had a broken bone in his elbow and that his groin was torn. “I was on painkillers, but I drank only as much as they allowed me to be healthy. So I still felt pain in collisions.”
Boston is currently leading the league table. After beating Montreal 4-2, the Bears were the fastest in NHL history to score 80 points. The team captain is Patrice Bergeron. Hara gave him the patch when he left the club in 2020. Zdeno has been captain since 2006 – 14 years.
“It was a great balance between me and Bergy. Patrice is just an incredible leader, incredible person, personality. It’s great that he was always there, because he was something that I could not be. And I told him we were co-captains.”
In the podcast, Hara recalled how, as a 29-year-old defenseman, he came to Boston in 2006.
“I was looking for a team where I could become a leader. There were no guarantees, but I knew that Pete Cirelli was moving from Ottawa to Boston for the post of general manager. He knew me, my character, my abilities. The post of captain was vacant. I got a call from Ray Burke and several other former players and they said that I have a lot of things to change at the club – first of all, the culture. It was a challenge.
I arrived at the training camp and said to myself: “I will be the strongest and I will be the best prepared from a physical point of view. And I will show everyone that these are the standards of our team. In training, I played just as hard, maybe even more, than in matches.
Another of Hara’s goals was to clean up the hazing that was then in the NHL locker rooms.
“This is what I experienced in my youth. Growing up… I don’t want to go into details, but bullying was part of growing up. I said to myself, “One day, if I ever get the chance to change this, I will definitely do it.”
Hara retired after last season. In September, the 45-year-old Slovak defender signed a one-day contract with Boston to retire from the Bruins. The club retired his number 33 from circulation, and in October held a solemn ceremony in honor of his retirement from the ice.
Zdeno said he is currently taking online financial literacy courses at Harvard Business School. He also lives in Massachusetts, but this year he was only at three Boston home games. “Matches end late and I get up at 4:35 am to go for a run or bike ride before taking my kids to school.”