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Chara retires from NHL, signs one-day contract with Bruins

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The 45-year-old defenseman signed a one-day contract with the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Tuesday and ended his NHL career after 24 seasons with 680 points (209 goals, 471 assists) and a plus-301 rating in 1,680 games. the New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals.

He also had 70 points (18 goals, 52 assists) and was plus-49 in 200 Stanley Cup Playoff games. Chara holds the record for most NHL games played by a defenseman, having passed Chris Chelios with 1,652 when the Islanders lost 4-3 in a shootout to the San Jose Sharks on Feb. 24.

Sitting on the dais after signing the contract, Chara looked up and asked if the assembled crowd would like to know what it said.

“Zdeno must agree to keep himself in good shape or physical condition at all times post-retirement,” Chara read, drawing a laugh.

Video: Chara surpasses Chelios for games played at 1,652

In the audience were former teammates and current Bruins players — Patrice Bergeron, Brad MarchandTuukka Rask, Chris Kelly, Adam McQuaid, Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk, Charlie Coyle, Jake DeBrusk and others — plus the Boston coaching staff, training staff and equipment staff as well as dozens of other team staffers.

“Every day he expected you to be the best,” Marchand said. “He always would line up and compete. You knew that every day you were against him, you’d have to bring your best. And he’d let you know if he had your number that day too. Just made sure that you kept make yourself accountable.

“It’s not the same without him on the ice. There’s not the same intensity around the room and the rink every day. There’s a reason why our culture is the way it is now. It’s because of what he brought every single day.”

Bergeron, who succeeded Chara as Bruins captain, used the words “privilege” and “honor” about playing with Chara.

“His competitive drive, the way he prepared, practices for games, in the gym, his focus, I learned from all of that,” Bergeron said. “It was a privilege to be a part of it. It was also a privilege for me at a young age to learn from him. He had a great impact. … It’s been an honor to be with him.”

Tuesday morning, Chara had announced his retirement on Instagram, writing that he was honored to “officially finish my career with the team that has meant so much to me and my family. There are so many people that have helped contribute to my success, including all of you, and I look forward to properly thanking everyone this afternoon.”

He did that, and then some, starting by thanking his Junior B coach and the NHL scouts who believed in him, even when as a young player he struggled to find footing, being cut from teams at 16 and doubted because of his size and awkwardness. skating.

“When I started playing hockey as a young boy, I never imagined I’d be sitting at a press conference one day after playing in the NHL for 25 years,” he said. “This all feels surreal.”

But Chara said that he has known for a while that it was time to end his NHL career.

“Biological age of your body, you can’t deny it,” he said. “But that was not the main reason. … My decision was based on my family. You tell me I cannot do something, I’ll make sure I do it. It doesn’t matter the age. It’s not that. I had my share of battles and all these things. It’s time to be home with my family.”

[RELATED: Chara leaves legacy of winning, leadership | Chara career timeline

 

In his final NHL game April 29, Chara scored his second goal of the season at 19:16 of the third period in a 6-4 home loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Fans at UBS Arena serenaded him with chants of “Char-a! Char-a!” and the Lightning stayed on the ice after the game to greet him with the Islanders sending him through a handshake line.

“It was just completely unexpected and it was just an amazing feeling obviously to have that support from the fans,” Chara said that night. “I can’t really describe it. I was getting chills. It was a spectacular moment and I’ll cherish that for the rest of my life. You know, very classy. Amazing.”

Known as Big Z, the defenseman (6-foot-9, 250 pounds) was chosen by the Islanders in the third round (No. 56) of the 1996 NHL Draft and played four seasons for them until he was traded to the Senators on June 23, 2001. After four seasons with Ottawa, he signed a five-year contract with Boston on July 1, 2006, and was named captain to start the 2006-07 season.

That may have changed everything, for Chara and for the Bruins organization. 

“Arguably the best free agent signing in history,” Neely said. 

Three seasons later, Chara won the Norris Trophy voted as the best defenseman in the NHL after scoring 50 points, including an NHL career-high 19 goals. In 2011, he helped Boston win its first Stanley Cup championship since 1972 after leading the NHL in rating in the regular season (plus-33) and postseason (plus-16).

“You go from Bobby Orr to Brad Park to Ray Bourque and then Zdeno Chara, it’s pretty amazing,” Neely said. “I don’t know if many franchises can say they had those kind of anchors on the blue line that many years in a row.”

Chara helped the Bruins qualify for the playoffs in 11 of his 14 seasons with them. He’s sixth in Boston history in games played (1,023) and third in points by a defenseman (481) behind Hockey Hall of Famers Bourque (1,506) and Orr (888). He left the Bruins to sign a one-year contract with the Capitals on Dec. 30, 2020, and returned to the Islanders on a one-year contract Sept. 18, 2021. He was the oldest active player competing in any of the top five major professional sports leagues in North America (NHL, NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS).

“It’s great for myself and a lot of the younger guys to have guys like that who are consummate pros, to really learn what it takes to have a long career in this league,” Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech said.

Chara was asked who his biggest challenge was in the NHL over his long career.

“You had challenges every night against the best players in the world, but I think the biggest challenge you faced was against yourself,” he said. “You have to look at yourself every night before you step on the ice. That’s the challenge you face every day. You’d better be ready.”

Video: [email protected]: Chara honored for 1,500 career NHL games

As soon as Chara left the Bruins for the Capitals, Neely asked him to consider retiring as a part of the franchise. 

On Tuesday, it happened. And, Neely made clear, he’s ready to have a conversation with Chara about returning to the organization in another role as soon as Chara is ready for that. Chara said he would take some time before pondering his future. 

Off the ice, Chara led the Bruins to participate in philanthropy and community events locally and internationally. In 2019, his initiatives and engagement resulted in his nomination for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, awarded to the player “who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.”

Chara said Tuesday, “When I started playing hockey, I would never have imagined being a part of the NHL or being part of the Boston Bruins organization and winning the Stanley Cup, or winning the Norris Trophy, Mark Messier (Leadership) Award (in 2011), or even having the privilege of seeing my name next to several NHL records. I know I can walk away from the game with the gratitude, honor and pride. And I’m not walking completely away from the game, but now it’s time I walk along [with] my family.”

When Chara finished those words, all of those former teammates and coaches and staff stood and gave him a 29-second standing ovation.

Also on Tuesday, 36-year-old defenseman Keith Yandle, who set the NHL record for consecutive games played last season, retired after 16 seasons in the Leagueand defenseman PK Subban, 33, retired after 13 NHL seasons.

Tweet from @NHLBruins: Zdeno, your arrival in Boston kickstarted an era to remember. Your unparalleled leadership, commitment, and character shaped a culture that will carry on. Thank you for everything you have done for our team, our organization, our city, and our game. Congratulations, Big Zee! pic.twitter.com/eaMNnx4K6V

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