Fantasy Hockey

Chara honored by Bruins at pre-game ceremony

BOSTON– After the ceremonial puck was dropped, Zdeno Chara shared a series of handshakes with the two captains ahead of him, Minnesota Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon and Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron. From the handshake, Bergeron and Chara embraced, and as Bergeron walked away, he pointed to Chara, signaling to the crowd the immense impact of the man in front of him.

The Bruins honored Chara ahead of their game against the Wild at TD Garden on Saturday, a month after retiring from the NHL to end his 24-season career. The 45-year-old dropped the puck next to his 6-year-old twin sons Ben and Zack.

“It’s incredible”, Bruins forward David Pastrnak said. “Amazing career. We all know what he’s done here. So the recognition he’s gotten is well deserved.”

The likely Hockey Hall of Famer had 14 of his best seasons in Boston, captaining the Bruins to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship and winning the 2009 Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman. He arrived in Boston in 2006-07 as a free agent after stints with the New York Islanders, including his debut in 1997-98, and the Ottawa Senators.

Before Chara came out to drop the puck, the TD Garden scoreboard read “Thank you Zdeno Chara” and a video played, beginning with his appearance in Game 5 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals, when he took the ice with a broken jaw suffered in Game 4 of the series. It ended with Chara lifting the Cup in 2011, two of the most iconic moments for the defender in a career full of them and generating a sustained ovation.

In the locker room before the game and during media interviews after the game, the Bruins wore t-shirts with the words “Thank you Big Zee” and an image of Chara in his No. 33 jersey.

Tweet from @NHLBruins: #ThankYouZee 👏

Although Bruins coach Jim Montgomery has never coached Chara, he said he was blown away by his retirement press conference on Sept. 20, when Chara spoke about the importance of family. and its values.

“I had heard so much about the character, the man and the values, integrity, I guess,” Montgomery said. “I’m very grateful to him because I know what the culture is like in that dressing room, and I think he’s the one who changed it.”

Under Chara, the Bruins have made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 11 of 14 seasons and three trips to the Stanley Cup Finals (2011, 2013 and 2019), winning an epic seven-game series against the Vancouver Canucks. Chara played 14 Game 7s, the most in NHL history.

“He’s a guy I have so much respect for,” Bruins forward said Nick Foligno, who played against Chara for years in the NHL. “Because he did, he came here and completely changed the culture. The way he played for his height and the way he dominated and the way he worked in his craft I think that’s something that I’ve always admired about him as a professional and playing against him, just as much respect for the leader that he is and the family man that he is.

“You appreciate being able to play against legends like that in the game and I think, knowing what he meant to this organization and now being here, it was an honor to be a part of that tonight. Hopefully “He’ll get a lot more recognition for what he’s done for this city and this team.”

Foligno recalled a few battles in net with Chara, particularly on the power play.

“I had to put on an extra towel just because of him,” Foligno said with a smile. “He liked his cross-checks. It was fun, though. I think we respected the way he played the game, how hard he would play, how hard I would go for him. It made some nights a bit difficult, especially how dominant he was, but you get up to play against players like that. I always liked the challenge.

Chara ranks sixth in Bruins history in games played (1,023) and third in points by a defenseman (481) behind Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506) and Bobby Orr (888). . He is seventh in games played in NHL history (1,680) and first among defensemen.