Although the New York Islanders left the ice as losers in their recent game with the San Jose Sharks, one of their players stepped off the ice as a record holder. The Slovakian blueliner, Zdeno Chara, is now not only the oldest active NHL player, but he now also holds the record for the most games played as an NHL defenseman. His 1,652nd appearance broke the record set by the legendary Hall of Famer, Chris Chelios. It was indeed fitting that Chara broke the record with the club who gave him his NHL debut way back in the late 90s, and his captain Anders Lee was delighted to share the ice with him on his memorable night.
Respect for Chara
“Zdeno is probably one of the best leaders we’ve had in this league, not only all time but for the last 20 plus years,” Lee continued. “And for me, and for all the guys in this room, I think you see his work ethic, you see how he carries himself, how humble he is. Anything that he has to offer, you take it up like a sponge. He’s led phenomenal teams through a lot of different situations and with, you know, the challenges that we faced as a team, with goals and expectations, and I think he’s been a tremendous, tremendous help and asset in our room”.
Chara’s achievement has brought a bright spot in a rather uninspiring season for the team from the UBS Arena to date, as they find themselves way behind in the running for the post-season picture. They’ve not been helped by a lack of goals and a slump in form from the likes of Kyle Palmieri, who admitted to the New York Post that he’s failed to live up to expectations since joining the franchise. As a result, The Islanders are outsiders for the Stanley Cup this season, with odds as wide as 100/1 in the latest Ladbrokes betting markets.
Although Palmieri’s form has had a somewhat upturn of late, it doesn’t distract from some painful recent losses against the likes of the Buffalo Sabres, which arguably means that Chara will likely miss out on the playoffs in what may be his final season in the league. He signed a one-year deal to re-join the Islanders last summer amid speculation he was to bring down the curtain on a career that has spanned over 25 years, and if it is to be the end this time, he can certainly be proud of his achievements.
The 6-foot-9 defenseman can list a Stanley Cup win with the Bruins and six-time NHL All-Star calls. His performances have been so notable that he was named the best defenseman in hockey back in 08/09 when he picked up the Norris Trophy in one of six nominations for the accolade. Internationally, he’s won silver medals playing for his country and is recognized in his homeland as one of the all-time best players in Slovakian ice hockey history.
While his accolades speak for themselves, Chara was able to break the record for appearances only three months after the 24th anniversary of his first game for the Islanders, which came against the Detroit Red Wings on November 19, 1997. But what made it even more special was just how much the fans, coaches, and everyone in attendance stood in unison to celebrate the achievements of the man known as Big Z. It certainly cemented his legacy as not only a record holder but one of the most respected and talented players the NHL has ever seen.
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