Coming into this season, Zdeno Chara was unsure if he was going to play. Fast forward a few months later, Chara, now at age 44, is the oldest active player in the league and about to hit a milestone that only 12 other players in NHL history have been able to reach previously.
Saturday night, Chara, one of the fiercest competitiors of this generation, will become the 13th player in NHL history to play in 1,600 games. And he will do so against the team that originally drafted him in the third round of the 1996 Draft: the New York Islanders.
If Chara plays in every game down the stretch, he will finish the 2020-21 season (and possibly his career) with 1,608 games played.
“It’s always nice to reach milestones, but once you reach them it’s just a short moment of kind of celebration or enjoyment,” Chara said to NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti. “But the process to get to those milestones, it takes time. It takes years, days away from family, and I always enjoyed that whole process going after those, reaching those goals.
“I was kind of the guy who wasn’t supposed to make it, first and foremost,” he added, pointing out that his Slovakian coaches urged him to play basketball instead. “I was cut by many teams at a very young age and that kind of gave me a huge motivation.”
at least he hit us with the change up pic.twitter.com/hROP422NJI
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) April 24, 2021
To reach the mark, Chara has played 231 games (four seasons) with the Islanders, 299 games (four seasons) with the Ottawa Senators, 1,023 games (14 seasons) with the Boston Bruins, and 47 games (one season) with the Capitals.
“I just have a lot of passion for the game,” Chara said to the Capitals. “A lot of respect and I just want to do my best every time I come to the rink.”
"I just have a lot of passion for the game. A lot of respect and I just want to do my best every time I come to the rink."
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) April 24, 2021
Chara’s milestone is even more impressive when his longetivy is compared to other defenseman. The defense position is the most physically demanding of the sport and necessitates a player being in top shape against forwards who can be either big, fast, or both. He is the fifth defenseman in NHL history to reach the mark.
CAPS TODAY: Zdeno Chara is expected to play in his 1,600th game tonight against the New York Islanders. Chara will become the fifth defensemen in NHL history to reach the mark. More info on Chara and Caps Clips at https://t.co/HecIC0ECg1 pic.twitter.com/YfRyZKiOmx
— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) April 24, 2021
According to the Capitals PR:
Chara will become the fifth defensemen in NHL history to reach the mark, joining Chris Chelios (1,651), Scott Stevens (1,635), Larry Murphy (1,615) and Ray Bourque (1,612). Three players on this list have played for the Capitals (Chara, Stevens, Murphy). Chara, who turned 44 on March 18, joins Chelios as the only defensemen to reach the 1,600-game mark at the age of 44 or older (Chelios: 46 years old at the mark). Chara is one of just four defensemen in NHL history to play at the age of 44 or older (Chelios, Doug Harvey, Tim Horton).
Chara has averaged 18:23 TOI this season, which ranks seventh on the Capitals. Chara has nine points (2g, 7a) in 46 games this season and is tied for fifth on the team in plus/minus (+8). Since 2018-19, Chara’s 59.5 goals for percentage at five-on-five (156 goals for, 106 against) ranks fourth among defensemen with at least 100 games played.
The 2009 Norris Trophy winner has spent most of the season skating with Nick Jensen forming one of the best third pairings in the league. Chara, who is signed to a one-year, $795k deal, is attempting to win a Stanley Cup for a second time with Washington.
“I think [his] presence has been huge,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said on Hockey Central, Thursday. “The on-ice presence, the off-ice presence. He’s got so much respect from our players. The things he does. He brings a level of professionalism that’s great for even the older guys to see. His standard of conditioning, game preparation, what he brings to the room when things aren’t going right, it’s probably a little bit better than we even anticipated it would be. I think that was the big reason of us bringing him in. We believed that he could contribute that and make our guys better in that way and he has.”
Headline photo: @KP8Design/RMNB
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