So Long Big Z

After a long career, Zdeno Chara is officially walking away from the NHL. (Courtesy of Twitter)

After a long career, Zdeno Chara is officially walking away from the NHL. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Colin Loughran, Staff Writer

There’s something to be said about the act of “letting go.” Human beings typically struggle with ending an era that has been fruitful. It’s hard to do, especially when the future is uncertain. Boston hockey faced this experience last week when ex-captain Zdeno Chara signed a one-day contract with the club and officially retired a Bruin. Chara’s farewell symbolizes the end of an era that won’t be forgotten, and serves as a prelude to more inevitable goodbyes.

Chara became a member of the Boston Bruins in 2006. The defenseman signed a five-year, $37.5 million contract and became the captain that same season. ”Big Z” was a critical part of the Bruins’ rise towards contention. Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Tim Thomas and others formed the nucleus of the 2011 club that went on to win the Stanley Cup. Chara collected 44 points during the season and led the squad in plus-minus. His presence as a physical two-way player served the Bruins well and opened the ice for others like Bergeron to skate freely and score. That famed group of Bruins went on to reach the Stanley Cup in 2013 and 2019, but were never able to replicate the success of ’11.

Regardless of the number of championship banners Chara and co. were able to collect, the team’s prime years are held in high esteem by fans. Chara left the Bruins in 2020 to pursue an opportunity with the Washington Capitals, and played one final season on Long Island with the Islanders last year. However, he will always be remembered as a Bruin. In many ways, Chara changed Boston’s culture and allowed for them to become contenders.
By the time he reached Boston, the Czech product was already an established NHL force. Having someone of Chara’s capabilities on the roster helped turn a struggling bunch into a confident unit. In a recent Boston Globe article, former Bruin Tom Fitzgerald stated, “That organization flipped the day it signed him. It literally flipped.”

Chara’s exit signals the end is near for the Bruins’ current leaders. Bergeron flirted with retirement last season. Tuuka Rask called it a day in the middle of last year’s campaign. David Krejci may only be back for the final year after his brief hiatus. The future is uncertain, and while Bruins fans may be scared to let go of “what was,” there’s truly no harm in celebrating what was an incredible chapter of the club’s history.

So long, Big Z. Thank you for always leaving everything on the ice. Your grit, tenacity, toughness and loyalty embodied the very best of Bruins hockey.