You can’t get rid of Zdeno Chara. The 6-foot-9 veteran blueliner will start the 2021-22 campaign on the team where his career was born. The New York Islanders signed Chara to a one-year contract, undoubtedly adding depth to their roster and a feel-good storyline to the season.
The Islanders already have a pretty senior roster and now even more so after their latest addition. But there’s no power play that doesn’t want a powerhouse like Chara running it from the point. With his age comes a certain type of experience, leadership and drive that’s hard to find and will surely serve the Isles well.
The friendly giant just finished out his $795,000 one-year stint with the Washington Capitals where he garnered two goals and eight assists in the shortened season. But regardless of where in the East Division he bounces, Chara will always be thought of in a black-and-gold sweater with the “C” that was sewn onto it for 14 years.
The now 44-year-old played his last season with the Boston Bruins in 2019-20, as his role on the team began to change and the group wanted to focus on younger development. This move — a heartbreaking reality for players and fans alike — did not stop Chara from continuing his career.
This unwavering love for the game is what makes the sport so great. Chara has collected the Mark Messier Leadership Award, James Norris Memorial Trophy and a Stanley Cup throughout his time in the league, but he’s still back for more.
It’s the same fiery passion that fueled Jaromir Jagr’s 28-year NHL career or Joe Thornton’s move to the Florida Panthers. These guys stick around because they can’t imagine doing anything else. Because what’s better than scoring a game-winning goal in front of a crowd of adoring fans or joking around in a locker room filled with your best friends?
From a hockey fan’s perspective, it was great to see the Chara headline was about a new contract and not a retirement. It gives you that flutter in your stomach and swell in your heart to think about how much purpose and love can come out of passing a piece of rubber around on ice, hoping it crosses the goal line. It almost feels unifying — as if Chara is nodding in agreement with the entire hockey world saying, “Yeah, this is the best.”
The Czechoslovakia native is really living the dream — his career is the blueprint of what every guy in the league prays for at night. I don’t think there’s a face in the NHL that isn’t happy for Chara’s new chapter. It will always be bittersweet for Bostonians when their ex-captain hits the TD Garden ice in an away jersey, but that’s the nature of the game and the beauty in the connections built between fans and players.
What was previously enemy territory will once again turn into home for Chara as he heads into the season on Long Island. I can’t wait to see the role he takes on with a team that has been on the cusp of greatness for quite some time — we’ll see if it’s not too late to ignite the Islanders with a bit of starpower.