MONTREAL — For a few seconds there it looked like Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara was going to lose his own challenge.
Earlier this week Chara got his fellow competitors in the Cisco NHL Hardest Shot competition to ante up $1,000 a piece. By the time it was all said and done, the players, their clubs, the NHLPA and the NHL had put up $24,000 for donation to the favorite charity of the event’s winner.
When he first teed it up tonight at Bell Centre, Chara knew he needed to beat Nashville defenseman Shea Weber’s 103.4 miles per hour. Chara’s first attempt came 0.1 short. So the Bruins captain regrouped at the blue line, took a deep breath and unloaded an NHL-record-setting 105.4 shot to earn Right to Play the right to the rich money pot.
“To shoot even harder than the first one – simple as that,” said Chara about what he was thinking before he shattered Al Iafrate’s previous record of 105.2 mph. “I knew that I would have to put another really hard shot. And basically I gave it all I had, and I’m just glad it worked out.”
The hardest shot competition was the second-to-last event of the Honda/NHL SuperSkills. As he made his way from the locker room to the media interview area, Chara high fived and hugged Mark Brender, a deputy director for Right to Play.
“Obviously for us, to have a champion like him, and Andrew Ference, who helped talk Z into it, and all the other NHL guys, it’s incredible exposure and the money will directly help children grow and develop through sports. It’s huge,” Brender said.
Ference coaxed Chara into laying down the gauntlet at a dinner earlier this week. The defenseman also was the one that originally got Chara involved in Right to Play. In the summer of 2007, Chara travelled to Africa as an ambassador for the program one year after Ference did. During his interviews on the ice, Chara wore a Right to Play winter hat, complete with a red pom-pom hanging down the side.
While the shot was an NHL record, it was also Chara’s personal best.
“That’s the highest I ever shot it. Sometimes I’ve been around 103, 104, 102. You always want to shoot the hardest shot. Obviously it’s the All-Star record, so I’m very happy,” he said.