Speaking with reporters for the final time this season, Bruins legend and one-year Washington defenseman Zdeno Chara made it clear that he is in no rush to make a decision on hockey playing future.
“Obviously the season didn’t end the way we wanted it,” the 44-year-old Chara, whose team was eliminated in five games by the Bruins in the first round, said. “That’s life. You have to move on. As far as myself and my future, I’m probably going to take a few days to talk to my family and make decisions after.
“I think it’s not always a decision I can make myself. Sometimes there are things in life you have to realize, and I have to have a conversation with my wife and children and see where we want to be in the next few days or weeks. After those conversations, I’m going to probably let the emotions settle in and see where I’m at.”
First thought hearing these quotes? This is one of the first times that Chara has openly acknowledged his hockey mortality. When Chara was peppered with this same line of questioning in 2020 following the end of the Bruins’ bubble run in Toronto, he noted that he still felt that he had a lot to give to the game and his team. But this time around, he noted that the decision is not his just his to make, and that he’ll have to get others involved in those conversations.
The most important people involved in that conversation? His family. And you can understand why, as they remained back home in Boston while Chara spent the 2021 season in Washington. That was an obviously difficult situation for Chara.
“Definitely that was one of those things I found the most challenging,” Chara said of being away from his family. “But at the same time, the accommodation and environment I was in made it much easier and better than I expected. Looking forward to seeing my family and my kids again every day, but that will definitely be a factor into the decision I make in the future.”
Chara’s at the point in his career where he’s only taking one-year deals, meaning that the family likely isn’t ready to up and move for one-year stops. And with the Chara family splitting their time between Boston and Florida, and with Boston moved on from Big Zee, that certainly limits the potential options for Chara if he decides he wants his family with him in 2021-22.
But the other interesting part of this conversation, and something Chara seemingly alluded to, was the fact that there’s “some things you have to realize.” That line took me back to a conversation Chara had with the media when we first thought he was at the end of the line some three contract extensions ago. He said then that he had started the process of reaching out to players and asking them when they had realized it was time to walk away from the game. It seemed to be out of curiosity more than anything else, perhaps with the hope that it wouldn’t just blindside him one day.
Is Chara, who appeared in all but one game and averaged 18:19 per night during the regular season, at that point?
“I felt great,” Chara said of his 2021 workload. “I thought the coaching staff an all the trainers managed it really well. I had a lot of fun. It was a new experience for me. I really enjoyed it. Since Day 1, everybody welcomed me with open arms.”
A prideful guy, it’s worth wondering if Chara’s usage as a third-pairing guy with the Capitals — and a split from the Bruins based on their desire to go younger and/or reduce Chara’s role — has changed him. Has it inched him closer to the realization that life with your family may be better than another year of a nomadic lifestyle, and potentially in a new city or system, at 45?
It’s all part of the conversations that Chara will have before making a call on a potential 24th NHL season.
The tallest player in league history and Stanley Cup winner in 2011, Chara currently stands 13th on the league’s all-time games played list (1,608), and could potentially move all the up to sixth in 2021-22 should he return for another season.
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.