Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara will join another elite club Monday night when he plays in his 1,000th game with the Boston Bruins as the B’s take on the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
“It’s a huge privilege and obviously a tremendous honor,” Chara said following the game-day skate Monday. “I’ve been very lucky to play with many great players and always having great coaches. So this is something I will always remember and cherish. So many people I am very very thankful to.”
In Elite Company
Chara joins current teammate Patrice Bergeron, current Bruins general manager Don Sweeney, for Bruins forward Wayne Cashman and Bruins hall of famers Ray Bourque and Johnny Bucyk as the only players in team history to play 1,000 games or more with the spoked B on their chest. The future hall of famer who also hit the 1500 games in the NHL milestone back in November of this season, is honored to join such a prestigious list of Bruins to accomplish this feat.
“Yeah, that’s even more special,” Chara said. “Obviously you don’t see that very often, that players are staying with one organization for that long that they are able to play that many games but I’m very fortunate that I’ve been able to stay with this franchise. Like I said, it’s something that I will always remember.”
Why He Signed With Bruins
After playing for the New York Islanders (1997-2001) and the Ottawa Senators (2001-2006), the 6-foot-9, 250-pound rearguard signed with the Bruins on July 1, 2006, when the Bruins franchise was in disarray. They had just traded away captain and 1997 No.1 pick overall Joe Thornton, fired head coach Mike Sullivan and then general manager Mike O’Connell, and missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2000-01 season. Chara recalled why he still chose to sign with the Bruins even though he could’ve written his check anywhere else as one of the top free agents that summer.
“It was different times back then,” Chara recalled of free agency in 2006. “With the new modern rules, you are able to do your due diligence with meetings and you have a little more time to make that decision. You were not allowed to do that then. You were pretty much free at noon I believe? That was the deadline [on July 1], and very very quickly, you had to make the decision.
I was trying obviously to make my best on doing the homework before that and Boston was obviously one of those teams that I always wanted to play for. It all made sense for me to go to a team that had the opportunity for growth and improvements. So I don’t regret that decision at all and I’m very happy that I’m a Bruin and will be a Bruin.”
Chara Helped Set Winning Culture
To say things have gone well for Chara and the Bruins since then would be an understatement. In addition to signing the big blueliner and making him their new captain then, the Bruins also signed center Marc Savard to a multi-year deal. After missing the playoffs in Chara’s and Savard’s first season, the Bruins fired then-head coach Dave Lewis and hired Claude Julien. The team returned to the playoffs in the 2007-08 season and lost a thrilling first round series to their archrivals, the Montreal Canadiens.
Many around the team and Boston claimed that series, and specifically a thrilling Game 6 win in Boston to force a Game 7 after being down 3-1 in the series, helped put the Bruins back on the Boston sports map. Three seasons later Chara became the first Bruins captain since Bucyk in 1972 to hoist the Stanley Cup in June 2011, and the team has only missed the playoffs twice since, going to two more Stanley Cup Finals. Chara was asked why things turned out so well for him with the Bruins.
“The culture, the identity,” Chara said. “I think that’s what I stand for too and feel very comfortable to follow that and trying obviously to establish all those important qualities in a team. It’s been an absolute pleasure.”
Changing With The Times
Even though he is turning 43 two months from Thursday, Chara is still one of the best shutdown defensemen in the NHL and contributing offensively this season as well with five goals and eight assists in 44 games. As he showed in the Stanley Cup Final last June, playing with a broken jaw in the final three games of the Bruins’ seven-game series loss to the St. Louis Blues, Chara will do anything to help his team win. Part of the bigger picture, year-to-year, is also being willing to change with the times.
“You gotta accept some changes,” Chara said. “You gotta be willing to change a few things in your game and preparation, training, all those other things. I think that just the nature of the game these days, if you play for that long, you can’t always be stuck in the same lane. Sometimes you need to switch and make those changes for your benefit. So I was able to obviously work on those improvements and always try to improve and get better.”
As for how much longer he plans to adapt and play in the NHL, Chara let it be known he’s just focused on the present.
“I’m here today, I enjoy what I do and I love what I do,” Chara said with a smile. “I just want to continue to play.”