Bruins captain Zdeno Chara is now the oldest active NHL player

Matt Kalman
July 10, 2019 - 2:43 pm

He’s still standing and now he has another milestone to call his own.

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Bruins captain Zdeno Chara is now the oldest active player in the NHL  at 42 years old.

The distinction was passed on to Chara on Wednesday, when Pittsburgh Penguins center Matt Cullen called it a career. Cullen, who will turn 43 in November, is 136 days older than Chara.

The next oldest active player is Anaheim Ducks goaltender Ryan Miller, who will turn 39 this month and has been relegated to a backup role the past couple years. Nothing compared to the 21:05 of ice time per game Chara averaged last season in the regular season or the 21:28 he averaged in the postseason during the Bruins’ run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

The next oldest defenseman is Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall, who’s 38 and unsigned for this season. Ron Hainsey, who this offseason moved from Toronto to Ottawa as an unrestricted free agent, is two months younger than Kronwall. The 38-year-old averaged 20:15 of ice time last season, which is impressive. He’ll be lucky, though, to lace up his skates past 40, never mind 42 or 43.

So now we’re left to wonder how long Chara will continue to play and be the league’s oldest player (barring a comeback by Cullen or maybe even Jaromir Jagr). If the beating Chara took in the postseason didn’t change his mind about coming back to play in 2019-20 for a base salary of $2 million plus $1.75 million in achievable performance bonuses, maybe nothing will stop him from playing into the second half of his 40s.

Chara had an elbow injury that required offseason surgery, he had a lower-body ailment that kept him out of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final, and he famously played the last three games of the Cup Final with a jaw that had multiple fractures. He was visibly more exhausted than ever after every playoff game. He also had to come back during the regular season from a MCL tear.

But quitting never entered his mind.

“No, not at all,” Chara said a couple days after the Bruins season ended one win short of the team’s goal. “It’s [a lower-body injury> just one of those few things that has been bothering me for kind of a longer time and I keep reaggravating. So I think it’s time to look at them and get them fixed because it just keeps coming back. It’s like it gets better, it’s good, doesn’t bother me and boom, kind of something comes back.

“And you know just being hit by a puck or blocking shots, there’s nothing you can do about it. You play the game to put your body over there willing to block them and willing to win the games. So I think that those sometimes happen in a bunch and sometimes you don’t get hit at all. So yeah, I mean, you can’t be complaining. Pain is part of it and I may be a little different in willing to accept it, but that’s just hockey, that’s sport.”

Considering he was slowed by various ailments, Chara acquitted himself well against stiff competition in the postseason.

"I thought about it. You know I got home and sat and kind of reviewed a little bit about what I learned or what I took from it," Chara said. "And definitely I was able to push my body to different limits, which I kind of heard they exist, but I was kind of never in that position that I had to kind of push it. And definitely this postseason and playoffs, it was one of those that I kept pushing it and pushing it and finding another level of limits that you can go through and beyond. And you know with the spirit and faith I had, I kept playing, I performed well and so I was kind of very happy that I was still able to contribute and play at a higher level and play well and helping the team.

“So yeah I think it’s just a certain occasion in your life that you kind of thrive on and you find a way to bring the best out of the situations and keep pushing through it. So that was kind of what I find about this playoffs.”

Chara’s going to get a chance to try to push his limits for at least one more season and do it with everyone in the league looking up at him on the age depth chart.

 

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