When former New York Islanders forward Dave Scatchard thinks about Zdeno Chara and their time on Long Island together, one story comes to mind pretty quickly.
When Chara was first coming up in the NHL with the Islanders, Scatchared recalled, the future Hall of Famer didn’t have the right sticks. The length and the width of his sticks were incorrect and the 6-foot-9 defenseman had still been working to get more accuracy on his shots.
“Z would take a (slapshot) off the glass to get the puck out to center ice and half the time it would go over the glass and almost kill people,” Scatchard said during an appearance on Hockey Night in New York on Sunday. “Throughout the course of the year, everyone that sat in that section when he started to wheel the net the whole crowd would go ‘woooaaah.’ Everyone would lean over because they were expecting a souvenir. We called it souvenir night on the team. We’re like ‘souvenir night, Z is giving out free pucks tonight.”
Scatchard played for the Islanders from the 1999-00 season to 2003-04 and recently released a book, The Comeback: My Journey through Heaven and Hell, about his life and career in the NHL. Scatchard’s time with the Isles overlapped with the final two seasons Chara played in New York.
And when the two played together, the fans weren’t the only ones who would duck and cover if they saw Zdeno Chara winding up for a shot.
His teammates often found themselves hoping not to find themselves on the wrong side of a Chara slapshot.
“If you were standing in front looking for a deflection or a screen when he wound up, back then, you would just pray he didn’t kill you,” Scatchard said. “He would shoot it so hard, but he didn’t have control. His sticks weren’t right. Now to see him become a Norris Trophy winner, it’s incredible. I give the guy all the props in the world.
“He’s absolutely one of the most professional players I’ve ever played with. Even if he was playing at 50 years old he’d add something to that (Islanders) team. A veteran presence”
Now 20 years later Zdeno Chara will be back where it all started after signing a 1-year deal with the Islanders on Saturday. The 44-year-old defenseman returns to an Islanders organization that is in a much different place than the one he played for in the late 1990s.
The Islanders have reached the conference finals in two consecutive seasons and they’ve qualified for the postseason for three straight years. The change hasn’t gone unnoticed by Scatchard either.
“It has been just a joy to watch how the level of class has been brought up with the organization,” Scatchard said. “And to see the level of players they have there now. … I just like where they’re headed and Iike the potential, and I only think they are a piece or two away from just dominating everything. They should win. They have a good enough team to do it and I just think they just need another piece or two.”
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