Since the fall of 2006, Zdeno Chara has been the face of the Boston Bruins. A beacon of hope at the time, for an otherwise identity-less franchise, symbolizing an organizational cleanse that would ultimately result in a decade and a half of contention. Despite an uncertainty of work returning anytime soon Chara has expressed a desire to remain Boston’s stalwart on the blueline.
In a Sunday night interview with Sportsnet, Chara (in his 22nd season in the NHL) admitted there has been no love lost for hockey: “I still love the game, I still love going out there and competing, and if everything is right, I still want to play.”
Chara has spent the last two campaigns playing out one year deals with the Bruins, something he and general manager Don Sweeney agree is a necessary step in planning for the future. Sweeney spoke candidly of his team’s captain: “The really unique relationship that we have as an organization with Zdeno, and this started a bunch of years ago, but the last three or four in particular, he has exercised the ability to show patience, allow us to plan accordingly and then adjust his own contractual situations. You saw him do two consecutive one-year deals, which was important for us in planning.”
Accomplishing the unthinkable at 43 years old, Chara has managed to shutdown Father time’s impact on his game. Prior to the stoppage, Boston’s backstop posted an incredible plus 26 rating along with 14 points through 68 games. While not skating 30 minutes a night like in years past, Chara has in turn paved the road of development for youngsters Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo. Not to mention Krug, all of whom have spent time in one way or another alongside their captain.
Returning to hockey is still very much in flux but that has awarded Don Sweeney some much needed time to mull over the details of his off-season, whenever it happens. Difficult decisions are due because of the lack of an heir apparent to Tuukka Rask and the latest with Torey Krug. Yet as those quotes would suggest, a deal retaining their captain would be filed away as the least of his worries.
One day Chara’s number will hang from the rafters of the Garden, likely not far from the 2011 Stanley Cup Championship banner, and you’ll realize just how important he was not only for the Bruins, but the city of Boston. Single-handedly coming into a new locker room filled with no expectations and fostering a culture of respect and resilience, which can still be felt today. Boston is a city which embraces the athletes who represent it. At least the ones who don’t flee to Florida.
Before you go please be thankful the Ottawa Senators chose to re-sign Wade Redden over Zdeno Chara.