The 45-year-old defenseman signed a one-day contract with the Boston Bruins at TD Garden and ended his NHL career after 24 seasons with 680 points (209 goals, 471 assists) and a plus-301 rating for the New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals. He set the record for most NHL games played by a defenseman, 1,652 to pass Chris Chelios, when the Islanders lost 4-3 in a shootout to the San Jose Sharks on Feb. 24.
“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 on Instagram. “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. 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.”
Chara ended his NHL career by scoring his second goal of the season at 19:16 of the third period in a 6-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at UBS Arena in Elmont, New York, on April 29. Fans serenaded him with chants of “Char-a! Char-a!” the Lightning stayed on the ice after the game to shake his hand and the Islanders sent 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. “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 6-foot-9, 250-pound defenseman was chosen by the Islanders in the third round (No. 56) of the 1996 NHL Draft and played four seasons for New York until he was traded to the Senators on June 23, 2001. He signed a five-year contract with the Bruins on July 1, 2006 and was named captain to start the season.
Three years later, Chara won the Norris Trophy voted as the top defenseman in the NHL after scoring 50 points, including an NHL career-high 19 goals. In 2011, he helped Boston win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1972 after leading the NHL in plus-minus (plus-33) and the postseason at plus-16 in 2011.
Chara helped the Bruins to a playoff berth 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 Ray Bourque (1,506) and Bobby 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.
Off the ice, Chara led the Bruins to participate in philanthropy and community events locally and internationally. His initiatives and engagement led to a nomination for the 2019 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.”
Also on Tuesday, defenseman Keith Yandle, who set the NHL record for consecutive games played last season, announced his retirement after 16 seasons as a defenseman in the League and defenseman P.K. Subban, 33, retired after 13 NHL seasons.
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.
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