Zdeno Chara is no stranger to the handshake line, a hockey tradition in which teams exchange pleasantries at center ice following the conclusion of their postseason series.
After all, Chara, coming off his 23rd NHL season at age 44, has played in 200 career Stanley Cup playoff games.
Still, his trip through the line Sunday night after the Boston Bruins eliminated the Washington Capitals in Game 5 of their first-round series was unique.
“At that point, it’s obviously a disappointing feeling,” Chara told reporters Tuesday during a video conference, describing the emotion of shaking hands with former Bruins teammates. “I think we all share the same feeling of being disappointed by being eliminated. But you pay your share of respect to your opponent, so obviously congratulated all the Boston Bruins players and coaches for moving on.”
Chara spent 14 seasons as Boston’s captain, from 2006 to 2020. He signed a one-year contract with the Capitals this past offseason as the Bruins decided to lean more heavily on their younger defensemen.
There’s obviously a great deal of mutual respect between Chara and his old organization, and it’s impossible to fully describe his impact on the Bruins and the city of Boston. This season with the Capitals marked a new challenge, though, and he can’t help but reflect favorably on the time he spent in D.C.
“It was a new experience for me. I really enjoyed it,” Chara said. “Since Day 1, everybody welcomed me with open arms, and all the credit goes to the coaching staff, trainers, all my teammates. They did an amazing job welcoming me and making the transition as easy as possible. I really enjoyed it. It was a great time spent here, a lot of fun. We played some great hockey.”
Chara’s family remained in Boston throughout the season, and he intends to soon return, at which point he’ll eventually become an unrestricted free agent and make a decision regarding his NHL future.