By Allan Muir
Zdeno Chara’s Olympic break just got a little longer.
It was confirmed today that the Bruins’ captain has been named as the Slovakian flag bearer at next month’s Olympic opening ceremonies, and he’ll be attending with the full blessings of his NHL team.
“When you look at what Z has done for this club, I think it’s an easy decision to make,” Claude Julien told the Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinazawa. “You’re carrying your country’s flag at the Olympics. Even if he misses a game and maybe two, I think that’s the least we can do for a guy who’s given us so much since he’s been here.”
Shinazawa suggests Chara will miss a game, but it’s more likely that he’ll miss two. Boston plays the Blues on Feb. 6 and the Senators on Feb. 8 ahead of the Olympic break. The opening ceremonies take place on Feb. 7, six days before Slovakia is set to open the men’s tournament against Team USA on Feb. 13. Given the time difference and travel required, it’s hard to see Chara being available to face St. Louis.
It’s a classy move by the Bruins, no doubt, but it’s hardly a no-brainer. With the team locked in a tight battle for playoff positioning in the Atlantic Division, the four points at stake in those two contests could be critical down the line — and don’t think this decision won’t be brought up if it has an impact on Boston’s postseason seed. With Dennis Seidenberg already out of the lineup, the back end will have a distinctly Providence-like feel for those games.
But this is a big picture decision by the team, and a real tribute to Chara’s service both in Boston and in Slovakia. Well deserved.