BostonBruins.com - Captain Zdeno Chara has been taking in and enjoying the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia since heading over to take part in the Opening Ceremony and carry Slovakia's flag on February 7.
Now, the Games begin for "Big Zee," Captain for both the Black & Gold and Team Slovakia for the second straight Olympics (his third time playing).
On the cusp of his first game against the United States on Thursday, February 13, at 7:30 a.m. ET (live on NBC Sports Network), Chara joined sportscaster Dan Patrick and NBC Olympics inside their Sochi studio.
He spoke about the honor of carrying Slovakia's flag, calling it an "amazing feeling" and was asked if the competitive feeling is different, suiting up for his country, versus Boston.
"It's the same," he told Patrick. "You compete the same way. It's basically your job, you have to do it, making sure you do your best, no matter who you play for. Obviously, when you play for the Bruins, you're doing more games and more often, but at the same time, when you're playing for Slovakia, you're doing the same thing and your home country's going to follow you."
Next, when asked who was the "team to beat," he rattled off many, including the home team of Russia, with Alexander Ovechkin one of the main faces in the forefront.
"Well there's pressure on the whole team, not just Ovechkin," he said, in true Zdeno Chara fashion, when it was suggested "Ovi" was the star.
"Yeah, but you know there's always [Pavel] Datsyuk, [Evgeni] Malkin and the other guys. But I think it's probably pressure for the whole team, to see how they're going to deal with it."
While Chara's known for his 6-foot-9 hulking frame, shutdown qualities, leadership and unmatched play at both end of the ice, he's also become quite popular - so it seems - among fellow athletes at the Olympics.
"You're probably the most photographed athlete here, do you realize that?" Patrick asked.
"I'm not sure about that," laughed Chara. "But I have had a few pictures taken."
"Well, you are 6-foot-9 ['Yeah,' Chara agrees, laughing], but it seems like everyone you're running into is about five-feet tall."
"Yeah exactly, especially the first few days," he smiled, before switching into Zdeno gear. "It's a huge honor to be taking pictures with such great athletes."
The #PicswithZdeno hashtag has picked up quite the following on Twitter, along with a photo of his bed inside the Olympic Village that has circulated around social media and the Internet. But, from the moment Chara arrived in Sochi, he never saw it as a problem, but a kind gesture to help out likely the tallest athlete at the Winter Olympics.
"Now I saw the bed, and they didn't exactly have a bed made for you at 6-9," Patrick commented.
"Yeah, but they put kind of a little extension on the bed, so I'm all set now," smiled Chara. "But it's so nice to have a really nice Village. It's nice accommodations and the rooms are nice, the views are beautiful, so, nothing to be complaining about."
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