The global pandemic and social injustice made 2020 the worst. But in Boston, we have also had to deal with icons departing for new cities and new teams. Tom Brady to Tampa. Mookie Betts to LA. Now Zdeno Chara to Washington, just days before the New Year. It’s been a rough year for Boston sports fans.
The Newest Capital
Zdeno Chara and the Washington Capitals have agreed to a 1 year, $795K deal, ending his time with the black and gold. The 43-year-old will play his 23rd NHL season in the nation’s capital. According to both sides, this was a move to get younger guys integrated into coach Bruce Cassidy’s system and is not money-related.
“I just felt that what was presented to me and the conditions that were attached to it, I just felt like I had more to offer,” Chara said last week, “And I respect their decisions and wish them the best, but I just felt like I could still play regularly and play the games.”
It sounds like the Bruins presented Chara with a diminished role, despite playing 20+ MPG last year and averaging over three minutes of penalty kill. The integrated role the Bruins laid out meant not playing every game and not being a top-defensive pair for the club. He also stated there is no guaranteed playing time in Washington. After speaking with Coach Peter Laviolette, however, he felt it was a better situation for him.
A Job Well-Done
Zdeno Chara’s career was everything fans could hope for when Boston signed the lockdown defenseman to a 5-year, $37.5 million dollar contract in 2006. He previously played four years with Ottawa at Norris Trophy-caliber level. Chara continued that play throughout his career with Boston, winning the award in 2009.
Standing at 6’9″ before putting on skates, Big Z brought a toughness to Boston that was vacant since the “Big Bad Bruins” of the 70s. He has worn the “C” since he arrived in Boston, and will now hand the badge to Patrice Bergeron.
The Bruins were perpetual playoff contenders during Zdeno Chara’s time here in Boston. He helped them win the best trophy in sports, the Stanley Cup, in 2011 under his captaincy. They made it to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals twice afterwards, in 2013 and 2019.
Big Z was not just a leader of the Bruins hockey team but a leader in the community. He lived in the North End and rode his bike to work at the TD Garden. He attended charity galas and visited the Boston Children’s hospital. I’d be remiss if I didn’t share how generous and kind he was to my family every time we went to a Bruins game. Despite his big tough image in shoulder pads, Zdeno was a giant in the community whose departure will be felt much more than just on the ice.
We’ll miss you, Z!