As the NHL's early arrival at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Bruins defenseman and Team Slovakia captain Zdeno Chara has already been a big hit.
The tallest flag-bearer of them all has arrived in Sochi, Russia. Welcome Zdeno Chara. pic.twitter.com/O4a9EYyVJN— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) February 7, 2014
Chara was selected by his country to carry the flag at the Opening Ceremonies.
"It’s a huge privilege," he said. "I can’t really describe until it all sinks in, probably tonight. It’s going to be very special. It is already. But like I’ve said many times, it’s something you don’t get to do or experience for many athletes. I’m very lucky and privilege to be able to do that."
Chara was given permission from the Bruins organization to take part in the Opening Ceremony, as he missed two Bruins games to head to Sochi early.
"Pretty much as soon as I found out that there is an opportunity for me carrying the flag, I went and talked to the general manager and head coach," he said. "We kind of talked about it. We kind of decided we were going to make a decision probably two days later.
"There were some discussions with the ownership and among the management, and after three days, they basically told me ... They asked me if that’s something we have a right to do and if it’s important to me. I said, 'Of course. It’s a huge honor.' And basically after that, they said, 'We’re going support you. You've been with the organization for a long time, and you've done a lot of good changes.'"
"I can't thank them enough. Honestly, it's a dream come true."
Being the tallest player to ever play in the NHL, Chara’s presence in Russia has already produced some memorable tweets before the Opening Ceremonies get underway, including these that show the height difference between him and Canadian figure skater Kirsten Moore-Towers, as well the report on the size, or lack thereof, of the 6-9 Chara’s bed in Sochi.
Ran into Zdeno Chara today. Couldn't resist taking a picture :) pic.twitter.com/sYNOIbrWLn— Kirsten Moore-Towers (@Kirsten_MT) February 7, 2014
The Olympic Opening Ceremonies took place Friday at 11 a.m. Eastern Time, but will be re-broadcast tonight at 7:30 p.m. on NBC.
The Canadian Press's Stephen Whyno contributed quotes to this report from Sochi.