Slovakian defenceman Zdeno Chára, whose towering presence (the tallest player in NHL history at 6’9) and dominating play terrorized NHL offences for a quarter century, today announced his retirement from hockey at the age of 45, following 25 pro seasons with Ottawa, Boston, Washington and the New York Islanders, ending his career signing a one-day contract with the Boston Bruins.
A third round pick of the Islanders in the 1996 NHL Draft, Chára would debut for the Isles the following season, spending his first four pro seasons on the Island before being traded to Ottawa at the 2001 NHL Draft. Chára would spend another four seasons with the Senators (joining Färjestad of the Swedish League for the 2004-05 NHL lockout), emerging as one of the league’s top defenders, making his first of six All-Star Games in 2003. Chára signed a high profile free agency deal with Boston in 2006, joining the Bruins for what would be a fourteen season stint (including another lockout season overseas, this time with HC Lev Praha of the KHL in 2013), where he was immediately named as team captain and backstopped the Bruins to playoff success, culminating with a Stanley Cup victory in 2011, and a pair of Finals trips in 2013 and 2019. Chára would also win a Norris Trophy as the league’s top defender in 2009, and won the Messier Leadership Award in 2011, and would spend his final two seasons with Washington and back in New York, respectively. Chára retires with 680 points in 1,680 NHL games played, along with another 70 points in 200 career playoff games, holding the distinction of most games played in history by a defender, having the hardest slap shot on record (108.8 mph), and having the most Game 7 appearances in NHL history.
Born in Trenčín in what was then Czechoslovakia, Chára did not play for any Slovak junior teams, first playing internationally at the 1999 World Championships in Norway. Chára would suit up for seven World Championships (1999-2001, 2004-05, 2007, 2012), capturing a pair of Silver medals in 2000 and 2012, being named as the tournament’s Top Defender at the latter, playing determined for victory following the shocking loss of teammate Pavol Demitra in the tragic Lokomotiv Yaroslavl crash earlier that season. Chára would also suit up for three Olympic Games (2006, 2010, 2014), serving as Slovakia’s flag bearer in 2014, and played at both the 2004 and 2016 World Cup Of Hockey, playing with the “Team Europe” collective at the latter that would surprise the hockey world with an unexpected second-place finish.
Despite his multitude of international appearances, Chára surprisingly only won four IHLC titles, bookended with wins at the World Championships in 2000 and 2012, with a pair of Olympic wins in 2006 and 2010 in between. We wish “Big Z” and his family the very best for his retirement and the things to come!