It’s far from the most talked-about reunion with friend-turned-foe in Boston sports over the past week, but the Bruins are getting reacquainted with Zdeno Chara, now playing the role of defensive stanchion for the Washington Capitals in the teams’ first-round playoff showdown.
Chara, who spent 14 celebrated seasons in Boston and captained the 2011 Stanley Cup champions, departed for the Capitals last offseason after the Bruins offered the now-44-year-old a reduction in the things that matter to a hockey player.
His quest to deliver a vicious hip check of comeuppance to the organization — and the Bruins’ desire to show that the unsentimental decision was the correct one — makes for an irresistible angle to an already compelling series.
But there is a less-contentious way for Bruins fans to become reacquainted with him. The docuseries “Chara: Made For This,’’ is now available on the streaming service Peacock. The first three episodes aired on NBC Sports Network in September 2020.
The new fourth episode covers the Bruins’ playoff loss and exit from the 2020 playoff bubble in Toronto, Chara’s decision to sign with the Capitals, and follows him throughout this season. Directors Gilad Haas and Dan Levy, who produced the film for Shadow Lion, had candid access to Chara’s decision process as it unfolded.
“We were really able to capture his mind-set in the final days leading up to what he was going to do,’’ said Levy, who filmed Chara during a family vacation in Sarasota, Fla., a few days around Christmas 2020 when he made the decision to continue his career with the Capitals.
Joining Washington was no sure thing.
“I think there’s a scene there that gives a real picture of how close he actually was to retiring,’’ said Haas.
Shadow Lion aspires to work with professional athletes to produce content that, as Haas puts it, “fills in some gaps for fans as to who these guys are as human beings and not just athletes.” They have some high-profile partners; they built the relationship with Chara two years ago after getting him to participate in a hype video they produced for Tom Brady before the 2019 AFC Championship game.
“I think we were all so excited by how kind of a person [Chara] is,’’ said Haas. “I remember him walking in the room [when they were scheduled to shoot the clip for the Brady video] and apologizing profusely for being two minutes late. That was our first introduction to him, and I remember thinking, ‘Man, don’t you know we’d still be thrilled to do it if you were two hours late?’ After we did that, we were all so excited about working with him on the Brady video that we wanted to figure out a way to keep doing something.”
They stayed in touch with Chara, occasionally meeting him at a café in the North End to talk about ideas, eventually producing a couple of hype videos for his social media feeds. When the Bruins entered the 2019 postseason with genuine Stanley Cup aspirations, they began filming Chara behind the scenes.
“We were like, let’s capture this,” said Haas. “We don’t really know where it’s going, but let’s find out.”
Two years, a pandemic-forced foray in the bubble, and one change in teams later, Haas and Levy recognize that circumstance has brought them an ideal way to conclude the docuseries: a showdown with the team with which Chara had his greatest successes, and at least somewhat of a disappointing departure.
“We will still be shooting [as long as the Capitals are in the playoffs],’’ said Haas. “As we learned in 2019, anything can happen in the playoffs. So we’ll be shooting in the event of everything going really well, and we’d certainly be adding a fifth episode to look back on his postseason run. But no matter how it plays out, we’ll never lose sight of the fact that for us, this is a project, but for Z, it’s his life.”
Not likely top-rated
As for that other hyped reunion, the one coming in the fall . . .
NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” ended up with the top pick on every NFL broadcast draft board when it came to divvying up the 272 games on the television schedule, landing the coveted Patriots-Buccaneers matchup in Week 4 that will feature Brady’s return to Foxborough. You get those kind of programming benefits when you’ve been the most-watched prime-time television show for 10 straight years.
It should be the most-hyped regular-season game in history, surpassing, among others, that Patriots-Colts matchup in Week 9 in 2007, when both teams were unbeaten.
But as intriguing as it is, I can’t imagine it will surpass the highest-rated Patriots game ever in the Boston market. That record belongs to the Giants-Patriots matchup in the 2007 regular-season finale, when the Patriots clinched the 16-0 regular season with a 38-35 win. That game got a colossal 50.1 rating and 75 share in Boston, meaning that more than 50 percent of all televisions and 75 percent of the televisions in use in Boston were tuned into the game, which aired on Channels. 4, 5, and 7, as well as the NFL Network.
There were extenuating circumstances that played into that huge ratings. The game ended up on all of those networks in large part because it was initially an NFL Network-only game, and the fledgling network, in its fifth year of existence, didn’t have a big enough subscriber base for a game of such magnitude. The NFL wisely capitulated and put it pretty much everywhere.
I do wonder how close it will get to the No. 2-rated regular-season Patriots game of all time — a Week 9 matchup in 2014 between the Patriots and Peyton Manning’s Broncos, which got a 47.2/69 in Boston.
Reminder for Bruins fans, particularly those YouTube TV subscribers trying to figure out how to watch the first-round playoff series without access to NESN: Games scheduled for NBC Sports Network are not blacked out locally in the first round, even when they also air on NESN. Game 1 is exclusive to NBC, but Games 2-4 will air on both NESN and NBCSN in these parts . . . Showtime announced the details of a documentary of interest to Celtics fans: “Kevin Garnett: Anything Is Possible” will premiere July 30. It will include scenes from his Hall of Fame induction and interviews with Paul Pierce, Doc Rivers, and Rajon Rondo, among others . . . Rule of thumb: Most local sports radio shows would be 20 percent better if their producers talked 20 percent less. Feel free to adjust those percentages to your own preferences.