DETROIT >> Tomas Tatar knows hulking Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara like a friend.
But that friendship only goes so far.
“Great guy,” Tatar said. “But he’s not real friendly on the ice.”
Chara has mentored his fellow Slovak since Tatar he was drafted.
“Even maybe before I got drafted I started practicing with big guys back home like Marian Hossa and those guys,” Tatar said. “He helps me and gives me advice all the time. That’s why I think he’s a great leadership example for me. We are friends, but on the ice everybody wants to win and it would be nice to beat him.”
The two played in this past Olympics together as well as the 2012 World Championships.
Tatar however doesn’t train with Chara, 37, in the offseason.
“I would say it’s pretty much impossible to train with Z,” Tatar smiled. “That’s what he does off the ice. He’s doing extremely heavy weights, he’s so big and so heavy, just how he practices. It doesn’t matter how old he is, he does the same thing all the time. It’s pretty unique. Everybody knows that around the league, that’s why he gets so much respect.”
Chara was second on the Bruins in hits this season with 163, but Tatar can’t recall if he’s been on the end of one of them.
“No matter what would happen, even if he hits me, I would never get mad at him off the ice,” Tatar said. “What happens on the ice stays on the ice and we are friends off the ice. I probably will text him when we get to Boston.”
Tatar said he talks to Chara on a regular basis, but has not spoken with him since learning the two will be playing each other in the first round of the playoffs, which begins Friday in Boston.
“Sometimes we notice each other when we’re playing,” Tatar said. “It’s fun to play and challenge my friend. I respect him so much.
Chara is nearly a foot taller than Tatar, 23.
“When he stands on the hash marks in his own zone he’s got one foot on one hash and one foot on the other hash and he can reach to your blue line,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said of Chara. “I’ve coached against him a ton. He’s a good player. As good a player as he is he’s probably a better leader and better person. Those are the guys you build a franchise around.”
Chara is a six-time postseason NHL All-Star and won the Norris Trophy, which is handed out to the league’s top defenseman, in 2009.
“He’s so big out there, but he moves so well for that size,” Niklas Kronwall said. “He’s a really good skater for that size. His stick is ridiculously long. The ice he can cover, I don’t think we’ll see anyone be able to cover that kind of ice surface again. And he just makes the right plays. He’s so effective for them on the power play. He’s got a bomb for a shot. He means a lot to that team. He’s very impressive. I’ve got lots and lots of respect for him.”