I hear you hate talking about yourself. Is that true?
> I’m not sure if I hate it, but I’m more on the humble side than “Me, me,” I would say. [Laughs.] I’d rather downplay that.
Sorry, I’m going to try to make you not downplay that.
> That’s OK.
Do you think you have the hardest slapshot in the world?
> I’m sure I have one of the hardest, but it’s hard to compare. Shea Weber’s always been in the final at All-Star Games with me. I know Al Iafrate had the record for a long time. Al MacInnis had a really hard shot.
I was hoping you’d just say, “Yes.”
> [Laughs.] This is where we come to, I’m not really big on talking about myself.
You must get tired of talking about your height. I’ve never read an article about you where you haven’t been described as “big” or “towering.” That has to get old.
> I’m so glad that you said it. Every article starts that way: Zdeno Chara, six-foot-nine, big strong defenceman. I’m like, Oh my God, does every player get their weight and height listed before they write something about him? No. I’m kind of used to it by now, but I wish they would put it on the side, or not always mention it. I mean, at this point, I think people know, OK, that’s the guy, he’s really tall.
You’ve climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, won the Stanley Cup and biked the Tour de France course. What was the toughest?
> Playing the whole season and going through the whole playoffs in 2011 was the hardest 10-month period. As an individual, Kilimanjaro was probably the hardest week—the amount of hours you have to walk, the energy you’re spending, the altitude. And as far as one day, that would be one of those stages I did on the Tour de France. I remember climbing Mont Ventoux at the end of the day, and it was so, so hard. You have already three, four hours in your legs of cycling, and then you have to climb probably the hardest mountain on the course. And then you have to ride back to your car and pack up your stuff. I remember I was sitting in the car and I couldn’t feel my legs. I was like, how am I gonna drive? I couldn’t even feel the pedals under my feet.
Where does your humility come from?
> It’s the way I was raised and the environment I grew up in. We were never allowed to be cocky or misbehave. There was a lot of discipline back home, so it gives you a really good base. My dad always said, and my mom, too: Please, thank you, you’re welcome—it opens every door in the world for you if you act humble and just say those three things.
Is it understated how hard you’ve had to work to be quick and nimble out there?
> For sure it takes longer for bigger guys or tall guys to be really agile. Growing up, my dad and a few coaches always said that’s the first and main priority for me, agility and quick feet, before getting strong.
You have a daughter. What’s the hardest part of being a dad?
> Being away, that’s the hardest part. When you want to be with them and show them things and teach them things and you have to go away. With technology these days, it’s way easier than it used to be, but it can’t replace being there in person.
Are you a good cook?
> I can get by. I lived on my own for a number of years. I left home when I was 18, 19. I had to take care of myself, and I picked up a few meals that I can cook any time I want.
If you were to invite the Bruins coaching staff over for a meal, what would you cook?
> Our coaches are big on sweets. For sure I would make some cookies, and some chocolate cake, because they just can’t resist it. I’ll finish it with ice cream.
Let’s go back to the slapshot. What’s the key to a good one?
> When I was young I was practising outside on plastic, and I had a bunch of pucks and I was shooting at a fence. It really just has to come natural, you can’t be forcing it or trying to swing too hard or too weak. It’s basically like—how should I compare it?—if you cook a meal 100 times, it just comes really natural to you. If somebody wants a good shot they should go out there and keep practising.
And then eventually it’ll go 108 mph, right?
> [Laughs.] Yeah, eventually.
This story originally appeared in Sportsnet magazine. Subscribe here.