Zdeno Chara, a Boston giant, retired yesterday from the NHL, signing a one-day contract to finish out his career as a Bruin. My kids had the pleasure of watching Chara man the blue-line on cold January nights, taking breaks from their homework to ask about the game. He will be missed for those wonderful memories and many more.
From Kevin Paul DuPont in The Boston Globe:
Zdeno Chara, captain of the Bruins’ lone Stanley Cup-winning team over the last 50 years, announced his retirement on Tuesday, closing out an NHL career that spanned four decades, 24 seasons, 1,680 regular-season games, and three trips to the Stanley Cup Final with Boston, including the triumph in 2011.
Chara, 45, made the announcement in an Instagram post Tuesday morning, in which he revealed he was returning to TD Garden to sign a one-day contract with the Bruins.
“After 25 seasons of professional hockey, 1,680 NHL regular season games, 200 Stanley Cup Playoff games, and hundreds of international games I am proud to announce my decision to retire from the National Hockey League,“ Chara wrote. “In doing so, I am honored to return to TD Garden today to sign a one-day contract with the Boston Bruins and officially finish my career with the team that has meant so much to me and my family.”
Chara figures to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer when he becomes eligible in three years. He wraps up his career ranked No. 7 for most games played in league history, and with a regular-season scoring line of 209 goals, 471 assists, and 680 points. He also had 18 goals and 52 assists for 70 points in the playoffs, giving him career totals of 227 goals, 523 assists, and 750 points.
Chara left the Bruins after the 2019-20 season and played the 2020-21 season with the Washington Capitals and the 2021-22 season for the New York Islanders.
“I can’t express how lucky I am to play for many years with so many great players in the NHL and the Slovakia national team,” Chara said at a noon press conference at TD Garden on Tuesday.
Originally viewed as somewhat of a gangly, oversized, brute-force oddity, and selected No. 56 in the 1996 draft by the Islanders, the 6-foot-9-inch Slovak fashioned a career that was a unique and dominating blend of strength, reach, intelligence, as well as uncanny agility and athleticism for such a towering defenseman.
Chara, who has homes in Boston, Florida, and Slovakia, has long said he has no specific plans, hockey-related or otherwise, upon retiring as a player.
Fluent in several languages beyond Slovak and English, and with an expansive, detailed mind for the game, Chara would be a prime candidate for any NHL club’s front office, be it for a role in player development or in an executive capacity such as general manager or team president.
Chara also would be an asset to the NHL office in any number of roles, particularly those dealing with issues related to European players.
When asked in recent years about his interest in coaching, Chara has been lukewarm on the subject, typically referencing the time away from home that coaching demands. He has said he cares not to sacrifice time away from his wife, Tatiana, and their three children, particularly after spending what is now more than half his lifetime traveling at times upward of nine months a year for the job.
“I just love the game, everything about it,” Chara said countless times in his latter years with the Bruins, when asked about his post-career plans. “I especially love the competing, all the work it takes, on and off the ice … how it tests you.”
Chara, who came to Boston as a free agent in July 2006 from Ottawa and immediately was made captain, long seemed a natural fit to segue into a front-office position with the Bruins. That still may be the case, despite the fact that he left as a free agent in December 2020 and signed a one-year deal with the Capitals.
Upon his departure, and ever since, Chara and the Bruins front office maintained a respectful relationship, noting they understood one another’s views about his career path.
The Bruins saw Chara continuing here only in a reserve role, had he opted to stay for the abbreviated 2021 season. Chara felt he could contribute more than that, and proved it in Washington, despite the fact that the Bruins rubbed out the Capitals, four games to one, in the opening round of the playoffs.
It’s that mutual respect, and absence of finger pointing, that could lead to Chara one day, and perhaps soon, rejoining the club in a development or front office capacity.
Beyond being handed the Cup in June 2011 by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, and shaking it vigorously over his head in Vancouver, Chara will be best remembered in Boston for his longevity in the Spoked-B and his immediate return to the lineup after fracturing his jaw in the 2019 Cup Final.
“Bringing the Cup home to Boston created an unbreakable bond with fans that we will share forever,” Chara said.
Felled in Game 4 of that series in St. Louis, a Brayden Schenn shot ramping up his stick and cracking his jawbone, Chara was finished for the night at 3:07 of the second period, though he watched the game play out while still in uniform, sitting stoically at the end of the bench.
He returned to play in Game 5 at the Garden three nights later, after undergoing surgery to repair the fracture, and didn’t skip a shift over the final three games of the series.
Chara’s No. 33 sweater undoubtedly is headed for the Garden rafters, to hang there in perpetuity, a testament to his long service, distinguished play, sportsmanship, strength, and courage.
He left his hometown of Trencin in the fall of 1996 with a single suitcase and a pair of battered skates, forged a legacy, and won over a generation of Bruins fans.
He addressed Bruins fans directly in his press conference Tuesday.
“To all the fans, you are such a big part of our game, especially the city of Boston,” said Chara. “I want to thank you for your support, for your passion and love. From all of the things, probably I will miss you the most.”
E.J. Smith - Your Survival Guy
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