BOSTON — Zdeno Chara knew it was time to walk away from the game he played at the NHL level for 25 years.
The 45-year-old signed a one-day contract to retire as a member of the Boston Bruins on Tuesday. Chara made the announcement on Instagram before holding a press conference at TD Garden. His teammates filed in and sat as Chara spoke highly of them.
“When I started playing hockey as a young boy, I never imagined to be one day sitting at a press conference after playing in NHL for 25 years. This all feels surreal,” Chara said.
Chara spent 14 years with Boston — all of which he captained — and helped change the culture of the team while leading the Bruins to a 2011 Stanley Cup victory. Even at the age of 45, Chara knew he still could play at the professional level, but it wasn’t his body that made the decision for him.
“My decision was based on family,” Chara said. “Listen, you tell me I cannot do something, I’ll make sure I’ll do it. Doesn’t matter the age. It’s not that. It’s time to be home. There’s a time for everything. I had my share of battles and all these things. It’s time to be home with my family.”
Chara spent his final two seasons with the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders. His family remained in Boston, so he was away much more than what they were used to while he was with the Bruins. Getting to be “dad” and “husband” in a full-time role now is really what made Chara step away from hockey.
“The biological age of your body is always gonna be there. You can’t deny it,” Chara said. “I knew where I was. But that was not the main reason. I think the main reason was just to be home with my family. I mean, the past two years, I’ve been away constantly, and it was weighing on me way too much. And I knew that first of all, it was the right time to step away. And having three kids at home and being involved and not miss their birthdays, special occasions, it just — I knew that was the right decision and I’m completely happy with it.
“I have no regrets. I would not change a thing. We are in a business where everything’s judged by winning, but I had my shares of the highs and the lows. And that’s okay. That’s part of it. And, you know, you learn from it and you grow as a player and you grow as a person. So I am completely at peace with it, and I’m happy with it.”
Chara won a Norris Trophy after the 2008-09 season, was a six-time All-Star and Stanley Cup champion. Aside from all of that, though, he was a respected teammate on and off the ice and someone who put his body on the line each and every game — just look at Game 5 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.
It’s only a matter of time before Chara’s No. 33 hangs in the TD Garden rafters, but until that time comes, he’ll be happy to remain in Boston with his wife and children.