Zdeno Chara will return to Capital One Arena and play against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday for the first time since leaving the team as an unrestricted free agent and signing with the New York Islanders over the offseason.
The soon-to-be 45-year-old defenseman is currently in his 24th season as a pro and recently celebrated his 1,652nd game — the most in NHL history for a defenseman.
While it’s unclear how electric of a reception Chara will receive from fans –Chara never played in front of Capitals fans due to coronavirus restrictions during the 2020-21 season– Nicklas Backstrom signaled that the defenseman will be welcomed back warmly by his former Capitals teammates.
“Well first of all, (he was memorable by) how he carried himself,” Backstrom said. “Very professional and a great guy to have in the locker room. A lot of guys looked up to him. We’ve been playing against him for many years. He was a leader in Boston and came here and was a leader right away. A lot of guys looked up to him. He’s one of those guys that’s been in the league so long and I can’t say good enough things about him.”
“I’ve found myself getting better just being around him, working out with him, preparing with him. He demands that from his teammates,” Tom Wilson said last season.
Evgeny Kuznetsov seemed to be especially struck by the Slovak legend, who could be seen talking to Chara about goal celebrations and his hockey equipment during practice.
“I really want to invite him for dinner one day, to sit down together at home and talk,” Kuznetsov said. “I want to know all the details about nutrition, psychology, what motivates him to come to the rink and the gym every day. It’s rather hard to be away from your family, always on the road. In his situation, maybe you would lose the passion a bit, but he is full of desire nevertheless.
“He is a really nice and funny guy. Always smiling, and with a sharp sense of humor, his age notwithstanding.”
It’s unknown if Chara will be honored with a tribute video during the game.
Despite being a year older, Chara remains just as feisty as he was last season when he set the NHL record as the oldest player to receive a fighting major. Chara broke his own record this season dropping the gloves five times this season. His latest fight was against Jeffrey Viel of the San Jose Sharks.
“He’s not scared of dropping those gloves,” Backstrom said. “I’ll tell you what though, I’m staying out of that.”
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.