Even in his 24th NHL season, defenseman Zdeno Chara is setting records.
The 44-year-old Chara, currently in his second stint with the New York Islanders, tied an NHL record on Tuesday, simply by taking the ice in Seattle.
His participation in the Isle’s most recent contest brings his total number of regular season games played to 1,651, which ties Hockey Hall of Famer Chris Chelios for the most games played by a defenseman.
A third-round pick of the Islanders in 1996, Chara has put together a long and complete career in the NHL. He spent his first four seasons with the team that drafted him, where he put up only a handful of points and was a big negative when it came to plus-minus.
However, a move to the Ottawa Senators in 2001 sparked Chara, and he never looked back. In his first season with the Sens, the 6’9″ blueliner exceeded his point total from the previous two seasons combined and turned a minus-27 rating into a plus-30.
Chara has tied the record for NHL games played by a defenseman.
Over four total seasons with Ottawa, he set a new career-high in points each year, earned his first two All-Star nods, and finished as a top-seven vote-getter in the Norris Trophy race three times.
Though he was successful in Canada’s capital city, it was his arrival in the state of Massachusetts that propelled his career to the milestone that it has reached today. As a member of the Boston Bruins, Chara played 1,023 games, scored 481 points (including a career-best 52 points during the 2011-2012 campaign), and posted a plus-240 rating over 14 years.
Most of his awards and honors came while playing for the Bruins. He won the Norris Trophy in 2009, the Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2011, and a Stanley Cup championship, also in 2011. He also served as the captain for his team in each of the 14 seasons that he played in Boston.
After leaving the Bruins in 2020, he played one season with the Washington Capitals and has now returned to play with the franchise that drafted him. While the Islanders have not had a great season, Chara has posted eight assists and a plus-four rating in 43 contests.
The big man is less than one month away from turning 45, which is three years shy of Chelios’ age when he concluded his 26-year career in 2010. While Chelios was more prolific offensively than Chara, there have been few, if any, players that have possessed the defensive presence that number 33 of the Islanders has in his career.
With the record now partially his, Chara will pass Chelios and take it for himself when New York travels to San Jose on Thursday.