When Zdeno Chara stepped onto the ice at SAP Arena Thursday night, the veteran blue-liner did something no other NHL defenceman has ever done.
The occasion marked Chara’s 1,652nd regular-season game in the league, moving him past Chris Chelios for the most games played by any defenceman in NHL history. It also moved Chara into a tie for the seventh-most played by anyone to ever take the ice in the NHL, on par with Mark Recchi and just below Joe Thornton.
It’s been quite a journey for the 44-year-old. From Long Island to Ottawa to Boston to D.C. and back to the Island, with a Stanley Cup, a Norris Trophy and more than two decades on NHL ice, Chara’s had as memorable a career as they come.
Here’s a look back at Big Z’s time in the big leagues, by the numbers:
1: Guinness World Records held by Chara. His lone record is for being the tallest player in NHL history, the veteran rearguard standing at 6-foot-9.
6: Norris Trophy nominations for Chara. He claimed the prize once, in 2009.
11: Times Chara has represented his native Slovakia internationally, including seven times at the World Championships (winning two silver medals and earning a nod as the best defenceman in the 2012 tourney), once at the ’04 World Cup of Hockey and three times at the Olympic Games. Chara also represented his nation as part of Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, which finished second in the tournament. The veteran NHLer served as Slovakia’s flag-bearer at the 2014 Winter Olympics and was named to the IIHF All-Slovakia Team in 2020.
19: Goals scored by Chara during the 2008-09 season, for the Bruins — the most prolific goal-scoring season of his career.
23: Minutes he’s averaged on the ice over the course of his lengthy NHL career (23:49, to be exact). He averaged more than 20 minutes a night in 20 of his 24 NHL seasons, averaging an absurd 27:58 per night during the 2006-07 season.
24: Years Chara has been an NHLer, his first game coming on Nov. 19, 1997.
33: The number that graced the back of Chara’s jersey for the majority of his career. He sported the digits with the Bruins, the Capitals and the Islanders. Early in his career, he also wore No. 3 and No. 53 with the Islanders, and No. 3 with the Senators.
44: Chara’s age during this 2021-22 campaign, making him the oldest player in the NHL this season — and, in fact, the oldest player doing his thing in any of the major professional men’s sports leagues in North America. It also makes Chara the fourth-oldest skater to ever play in the league, after Gordie Howe (who played at age 52), Chris Chelios (48) and Jaromir Jagr (45). In terms of all NHLers, he’s been beat by a few goaltenders, with Maurice Roberts and Johnny Bower having both suited up at age 45.
52: Points Chara put up during his highest-scoring season in the NHL, in 2011-12 for the Bruins. He posted 12 goals and 40 assists in 79 games that season.
70: Points Chara has amassed during the playoffs. The mark ranks 33rd all-time among all NHL defencemen, tied with Guy Lapointe.
111: Games Chara has played against the Buffalo Sabres, who he’s played more than any other NHL club. He’s played the fewest games of his career against the Seattle Kraken (2).
200: Post-season games Chara has played during his career, the majority of them (150) coming with the Bruins. The total is the ninth-most among NHL defencemen all-time.
674: Points amassed by Chara during his lengthy career. He’s put up 207 goals and 467 assists thus far, with eight points to his name this season. The total ranks 30th among all NHL defencemen all-time, just above Erik Karlsson and just below Kevin Hatcher.
865: Regular-season wins Chara has been part of (seventh-most in NHL history), comprising 52 per cent of his total NHL appearances. He’s played in 578 losses and 208 ties.
1,652: NHL games played by the veteran rearguard. More than 1,000 of those came as a member of the Boston Bruins, while 275 have come with the Islanders (comprising his first four years in the league, and his current one), 299 with the Ottawa Senators and 55 with the Washington Capitals.
1,985: Hits Chara has thrown over the past 15 seasons (the league did not track hits for the first nine seasons of his career). His most physical campaign came in 2007-08, when Chara threw the body 222 times.
2011: Year Chara claimed the lone Stanley Cup of his career, as a member of the Bruins. Boston beat out Montreal, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Vancouver en route to the title, going to Game 7 in three of those series and managing a sweep in the other (over the Flyers). Chara became the first Slovak player to captain a team to a Stanley Cup, and only the second European player to ever accomplish the feat (following fellow defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom).
2,068: Penalty minutes amassed by Chara. He’s topped 100 penalty minutes in one season on seven occasions. His most penalized season was 2000-01, when he posted 157 PIMs for the Islanders. The total ranks 15th-most all-time among NHL defencemen.
3,390: Shots on the net by Chara during his time in the league. The total ranks as the 10th-most among all defencemen in NHL history, just above Brent Burns and just below Larry Murphy.