Zdeno Chara had big dreams and goals growing up. Already before getting drafted, he set up to be the greatest defenseman of all time, and he wasn’t far off.
Chara was passed over in the 1995 Draft but finally got picked the year after. The New York Islanders selected him as the 56th overall, and he would need to wait even longer before making his debut in the big league.
Many doubted he would make it. Standing at 6 ft 9, he’s the tallest person to ever play in the NHL and many thought of it as a problem. How could he ever be fast enough?
But how Chara proved everyone wrong. Chara retired last year after a simply astonishing NHL career. He played in the league between 1997 and 2022 and served as the Boston Bruins captain for all of his fourteen seasons with the team.
He joined them in 2006, signing as a free agent after leaving Ottawa Senators. Ottawa had troubles that year. They were on the brink of losing their two top defensemen, and they eventually decided to sign Wade Redden instead of Chara.
Redden just played two more seasons with the Senators, and his performance in the NHL declined fast. Chara, on the other hand, would continue to improve, and when he retired, he did it as one of the greatest defenders of all time. Just three years after making the move to Boston, Chara won the Norris Trophy, and in 2011, he won the Stanley Cup.
He played 23 seasons and recorded 680 points in 1,680 games for the Islanders, Bruins, and Washington Capitals. Playing for so many years, Chara played against some of the best players in history. Chara was even on the ice when Wayne Gretzky scored his final NHL goal.
But who’s the best player Chara ever faced? In an interview with The Athletic in 2020, Chara named Pavel Datsyuk as his most memorable competitor.
“Pavel was just a player that played the game the right way,” Chara said.
Chara won’t forget the many times he faced the former Red Wings winger.
“I can’t say enough about the way he played. He played hard. If he needed to be, he would be very strong. If the team needed, he went to the front of the net. His skill and assets were above 99.9 percent of the players in the league. You can’t really find that many players with so many weapons.”