Tuesday was officially the end of a long, long road for Zdeno Chara, as the 45-year-old announced his NHL retirement after 24 seasons.
Though he spent the early years of his career with the Islanders and Senators and later suited up with the Capitals and Isles again for a couple brief stints, Chara signed a one-day contract with Boston to retire as a Bruin. The big Slovak spent 14 seasons with the franchise and captained the team to a Stanley Cup in 2011 while reaching the final on two other occasions in 2013 and 2019, respectively.
After the Islanders selected Chara with the 56th overall pick in the 1996 draft, Chara broke into the league during the 1997-98 season and went on to suit up for 1,680 career NHL games — a record for defensemen. Tallying 209 career goals and 471 helpers, Chara certainly had the offensive game to go along with his defensive prowess, leadership attributes, size, strength and nastiness.
A true beast in every sense of the word and a future Hall of Famer, "Big Z" was a rare breed and a pleasure to watch. As the Bruins legend rides off into the sunset, let's take a stroll down memory lane with some of the best Big Man Moments of Chara's illustrious career.
Chara makes Bryan McCabe look like a child
Former Maple Leafs defenseman Bryan McCabe is listed at 6-foot-2, 223 pounds on NHL.com — a large boy — but Chara made McCabe look like nothing more than a mere crumb in this one-sided exchange during a Leafs-Sens game way back in January 2004.
With Chara posting up in front of the Toronto net on the Senators' power play, McCabe and Chara exchanged pleasantries with their sticks before McCabe threw a punch square into Chara's face. You can see the terror in McCabe's eyes the second Big Z's mitt comes flying off, and it was straight into survival mode from there as Chara whipped him around like a bag of muffins.
A career's worth of bone-crushing hits
Chara was obviously blessed with absurd size and strength, but what made him such a terrifying force to play against was his ability to pair those attributes with amazing timing and hit selection, whether along the boards or in the open ice.
Recording over 2,000 hits during his 24-year career, Chara shelled out an unfathomable amount of pain to his opponents over two decades in the show, making it almost impossible to narrow down his best hits with so many to choose from.
This one where he drops a steamrolling Alex Ovechkin in the 2012 playoffs is a good place to start, though.
Claiming the 2011-12 hardest shot crown, all-time mark
The only thing harder than Chara's hits are his slap shots, and that rocket was on full display during the 2011-12 All-Star Skills Competition.
Held in Ottawa, where Chara first started making a real name for himself, the big man put on a show in the hardest shot challenge, unleashing a 108.8 m.p.h. sizzler to set the record.
Martin Frk set a new mark with a 109.2 m.p.h. rip in the 2020 AHL skills comp, but Chara's mark still stands as the highest ever recorded during the NHL event.
Chara's role in Bruins' infamous 2013 Game 7 rally vs. Leafs
For many fans across the NHL residing outside of Leafs Nation, one of Chara's most important contributions to the game was his role in Boston's famous Game 7 "it was 4-1" comeback win over Toronto in 2013.
In case you've forgotten, the Bruins were all but dead, trailing by three goals with under 10 minutes to play before rallying in regulation and eventually capping the comeback with a dramatic OT winner off the stick of Patrice Bergeron.
Chara was on the ice for all four of those Bruins third-period and overtime tallies — grabbing an assist on Nathan Horton's 4-3 goal and setting up the crucial screen in front of Leafs netminder James Reimer on the Bruins' fourth.
Chara-Gerbe photo one for the ages
This photo of 6-foot-9 Chara standing beside the shortest player in NHL history, 5-foot-4 Nathan Gerbe, blew up the internet back in 2013 and is one of the most jarring and hilarious hockey photos ever taken.
This never gets old.
Leading Bruins to 2011 Stanley Cup
The pinnacle of Chara's career from a team standpoint was captaining Boston to the 2011 Stanley Cup, the Bruins' sixth title and first since 1972.
With Tim Thomas behind him and Dennis Seidenberg by his side, Chara was the heart and soul of the B's playoff run. He led the Bruins in average ice time at 27:39 a night while posting a team-leading plus-16 rating and adding two goals and nine key points over 24 postseason contests that year.
Chara captained Boston to two more Cup final appearances in losses to the Blackhawks and Blues in 2013 and 2019, respectively.
Chara's first scrap as a Bruin
Believe it or not, one of the most feared fighters in NHL history didn't have a single scrap over his first 88 games as a Bruin after going the entire 2006-07 campaign and the first eight contests the following year without a tilt.
But that all changed nine games into the 2007-08 season versus the Blackhawks, when Chara and 6-foot-6, 238-pound monster David Koci came together after a scrum near the Bruins net. It was later revealed that Chara was barred from fighting the entire previous season by former head coach Dave Lewis.
Jamie Oleksiak fight
Another absolute slugfest that stands out above the rest is this ridiculous tilt with Jamie Oleksiak, amplified by the fact Chara was at the end of a two-plus-minute shorthanded shift.
Legendary, big-boy stuff here.
2008-09 Norris Trophy win
For at least a couple seasons, Chara was not only the most feared defender in the league, but arguably the NHL's best rearguard.
He was recognized for his talents at the end of the 2008-09 campaign by winning the Norris Trophy — awarded annually to the league's top blueliner.
In his third full season with the Bruins, Chara posted 50 points, including a career-high 19 goals, to go along with ridiculous hit and block numbers in nearly 27 minutes of ice time per night. This season launched a string of almost a decade where Chara was perennially in the Norris conversation.
Playing to the age of 45
Words can't describe how absurd it is to play in the NHL into your 40s — let alone your mid-40s — while lugging around a 6-foot-9, 250-pound frame and playing one of the most physical brands of hockey you can play.
Chara joins a very, very exclusive list of NHL players — including the likes of Gordie Howe, Jaromir Jagr, Chris Chelios and Teemu Selanne — who extended their NHL careers that long.
Despite all the hits, fights, goals, accolades, trophies and championships, Chara's longevity, durability, and ability to play meaningful minutes for longer than almost anyone in NHL history could be his most impressive feat.
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