Chara signs 1-day contract with Bruins, retires after 24 NHL seasons
"Big Z" is finally hanging up his skates.
Veteran defenseman Zdeno Chara announced his retirement Tuesday after 24 seasons in the NHL. The 45-year-old will sign a one-day contract later Tuesday to retire as a member of the Boston Bruins, his team for 14 seasons.
The Bruins saluted Chara following his announcement:
"When I started playing hockey as a young boy, I never imagined to be one day sitting at a press conference after playing in the NHL for 25 years," he said during his retirement press conference on Tuesday. "This all feels surreal.
"I know I can walk away from the game with gratitude, honor, and pride. I'm not walking completely away from the game, but now it's time I walk along (with) my family."
Patrice Bergeron succeeded Chara as captain of the Bruins, and the veteran forward reflected on how his longtime teammate impacted the organization.
"His competitive drive, the way that he prepared, practices for games, in the gym, his focus, I learned from all of that," Bergeron said, according to NHL.com's Amalie Benjamin. "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."
Bruins president Cam Neely said the club plans to retire Chara's No. 33, though no date has yet been determined, according to 98.5 The Sports Hub's Ty Anderson.
Chara, who also spent time with the New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, and Washington Capitals, retires as the all-time leader in games played by a defenseman (1,680) and sits seventh on the all-time list. The 2008-09 Norris Trophy winner tallied 209 goals and 680 points over his career and was named to seven postseason All-Star teams.
Originally drafted 56th overall by the Islanders in 1996, Chara spent his first four seasons on Long Island before joining the Senators in 2001 as part of the infamous Alexei Yashin trade. He broke out as an impact blue-liner in Ottawa, helping lead the Sens to one conference finals appearance over four seasons in Canada's capital.
But Chara truly left his mark on the NHL after signing with the Bruins as a free agent in 2006. Boston's captain for all 14 of his seasons with the club, Chara led the Bruins to three Stanley Cup Finals appearances, including the 2011 win that snapped the franchise's 39-year drought. One of only three blue-liners to play over 1,000 games with the Bruins, he ranks top five among Bruins defensemen in goals, assists, points, power-play goals, and game-winning goals.
Chara left Boston for a one-year stint with the Capitals in 2021 before returning to the Islanders for a final season. Even at age 45, he made an impact on the ice, registering 14 points in 72 games and scoring a goal in his final contest.
Internationally, the native of Trencin, Slovakia (formerly Czechoslovakia), goes down as one of his country's most decorated athletes. Chara represented Slovakia on the international stage 10 times and led it to silver medals at the World Championships in 2000 and 2010. He also served as the nation's flag bearer at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
The 6-foot-9 blue-liner was the tallest player in NHL history and until Tuesday was the oldest active player in North America's major professional sports leagues. His retirement makes Joe Thornton, who's currently a free agent, the last active athlete in North American pro sports to have played in the 1990s.
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