Chara on Retirement Decision: ‘It’s Time to Be Home’

BOSTON – Zdeno Chara cannot be told no. He can admit that.

If he wanted to keep playing, the 45-year-old acknowledged, he believes he could have.

But after 24 seasons, over 1,600 regular season games, and another 200 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Chara realized it was time to go home.

“Listen, you tell me I can’t do something, I’ll make sure I do it,” Chara said after announcing his retirement by signing a one-day contract with the Bruins on Tuesday afternoon at TD Garden.

“It doesn’t matter the age. It’s not that. It’s time to be home…I had my share of battles and all of these things. It’s time to be home with my family.”

As such, the NHL’s all-time leader in games played among defensemen did not view his decision to hang up the skates as a challenging one.

“It wasn’t difficult. I knew before this day. I knew quite earlier than today, but I waited a little and wanted to really soak everything in,” said Chara. “We had some conversations with Cam [Neely] and Don [Sweeney]and we were just waiting for the right timing.”

After being away from his family for extended periods of time over the last two seasons as he suited up for the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders, Chara felt he was at a stage in his life where his career was no longer at the top of the priority list.

“The biological age is always gonna be there, you can’t deny it. 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,” said Chara, who thanked his wife Tatiana and children Elliz, Zack, and Ben for their support. “The past two years, I’ve been away constantly. It was weighing on me way too much, and I knew that, first of all, it was time, and it was the right time to step away.

“Having three kids at home and being involved and not missing their birthdays or special occasions, 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 is judged by winning, but I had my share of highs and the lows, and that’s OK. That’s part of it. You learn from it, and you grow as a player, and you grow as a person. I’m completely at peace with it, I’m happy with it.”

Video: Chara answers questions at his retirement presser

While the majority of his time will be spent with his family, Chara admitted that he won’t be completely walking away from hockey. At some point, he said, he’ll decide in what capacity he might like to return to the game.

“I’m just gonna take my time right now to really be home and see how much free time I have before I can actually commit to anything,” said Chara. “It’d be really unfair to myself, my family, or to whatever I decide to do hockey-wise to commit to something without knowing I can be committed 100 percent to that specific job or task.

“Just want to enjoy being with my family, my kids especially. Just want to be taking days as they come. I think if there’s opportunities or there’s something that will present in the future, there’s always gonna be a chance to step in. But as of right now, I’m just kind of going to take some time and see how it goes.”

Whenever the time comes for Chara to take on his next hockey challenge, Bruins president Cam Neely will be ready to have discussions about finding him a role within the organization.

“Yeah, I am looking forward to having that conversation with him whenever he is ready to have that conversation,” said Neely. “Obviously, having Zdeno around at whatever capacity would be a huge boost to the franchise, so we’ll see where it goes. Obviously, any athletes that retire, whether it’s their choice or not, you still need some time to digest and kind of figure out what the next chapter is going to be. Not many have an idea of ​​what they’re doing the following day they retire. Zdeno can take the time he needs, and we’ll see where it goes from there.”

For now, Chara, who would normally be getting set for the opening of training camp, is ready to learn all about life without hockey.

“I’m learning it. I’m living it right now. I can’t really tell you that after three months of being away from the game or not following the same routine as I used to,” said Chara. “It’s normal, I’m still active, and I still have that drive in me. Probably not at that level I need it or want it to for hockey; it’s more for me being in shape and feeling good and feeling good about myself. That’s not gonna change or ever leave. I always really enjoy being in good shape and in some capacity to compete, whether that’s just for me or against myself or doing some races or some stuff that I kind of like.

“I’m learning it. Basically, it’s something we all are gonna have to go through. You’re in such an everyday schedule-driven regime; and it’s great, I loved it, I enjoyed it. But at the same time, now I don’t have it, and that’s OK.”

Wait, there’s more

  • When asked if Chara’s no. 33 would be retired, Neely said, “with all he’s done for the franchise, that’s kind of a no-brainer. We’ll figure out when that might happen.”
  • Neely added that he “would find it hard to believe.” [Chara] is not going to be” inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible in three years.
  • The B’s president said that when Chara left via free agency for Washington in late 2020, he told him, “You’re always going to be a Boston Bruin. Whenever the time comes, I want you to consider retiring as a Bruin. Obviously, that’s something that was very special for him to do whenever that day came which was today. It made all the sense in the world for that to happen.”

Video: Neely talks with the media after Chara retires

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