Zdeno Chára (Slovak pronunciation: [ˈzdeno ˈxaːra]; born March 18, 1977) is a Slovak professional ice hockey defenceman. He is the team captain of the Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League (NHL) and won the Norris Trophy whilst playing for them in 2008-09. At 6 ft 9 (2.06 m), he is the tallest player ever to play in the NHL.
Chára was drafted 56th overall by the New York Islanders in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft. After four seasons with the Islanders, he was traded to the Ottawa Senators during the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. Chára was part of a package deal with Bill Muckalt and the second overall pick in that year’s draft (Jason Spezza) that sent Alexei Yashin to New York.
As a Senator for four years, Chára emerged as an elite defenseman in the league and more than doubled his previous offensive totals in his first season with Ottawa. In his second season with the team, 2002–03, Chára made his first All-Star Game appearance and recorded the second hardest shot behind Al MacInnis in the skills competition.
The next season, in addition to posting 16 goals and 41 points, Chára recorded the league’s third highest plus/minus, behind Martin St. Louis and Marek Malík, culminating into his first Norris Trophy nomination. Although he would lose to Scott Niedermayer as the league’s best defenseman, he would join Niedermayer on the NHL First All-Star Team.
After the 2004–05 NHL lockout, in which Chára played in the Swedish Elitserien for Färjestads BK, he matched his previous NHL season’s 16-goal total and increased to 43 points, good enough for NHL Second All-Star Team honours. As Chára did not come to terms on a new contract with Ottawa, he became an unrestricted free agent at the end of 2005–06.
Subsequently, on July 1, 2006, he signed a five-year, $37.5 million contract with the Boston Bruins and was named the team’s captain, a role left vacant since Joe Thornton‘s departure during the 2005–06 season. He became only the third Slovak-born NHL player to become a team captain, after Peter Šťastný of the Quebec Nordiques and Stan Mikita (co-captain) of the Chicago Blackhawks. He was named to the 2007 All-Star Game, his second appearance, in Dallas and scored two goals in an 12–9 Eastern Conference loss. Chára also won the hardest shot segment of the preceding skills competition, clocking a shot at 100.4 mph.
In 2008, he was voted in as a starter in the All-Star Game for the first time in his career and repeated as the winner of the hardest shot competition, recording an even-faster 103.1 mph (166 km/h) on the radar gun. On March 8, 2008, during a game against the Washington Capitals, Chára suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder. However, after missing five games, he played the remainder of the season including the playoffs. Upon a first-round elimination at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens, he underwent a shoulder operation on April 29. At the end of the season, Chára received his second nomination for the Norris Trophy after tallying a career-high 17 goals, 34 assists and 51 points, marking the fifth straight season he had either matched or increased his previous season’s points total.
In 2008–09, Chára was named to his fourth All-Star Game. As back-to-back champion of the hardest shot competition, Chára initiated a charity drive among the participants ($1,000 per player) to go to the charity of choice of the competition’s winner. Having raised $24,000 from the six competitors and their respective teams, the NHL and the NHLPA, Chára set a new Skills Competition record, with a 105.4 mph (169.7 km/h) slapshot. He donated the winnings to Right to Play. The shot passed Al Iafrate‘s previous record-making 105.2 mph (169.3 km/h) slapper from just over a decade earlier. He won the Norris Trophy for the 2008–09 season, beating out Mike Green of the Washington Capitals and Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings.
- Played in NHL All-Star Game in 2003, 2007, 2008 (starter) and 2009.
- Named to the NHL First All-Star Team in 2004 and 2009.
- Named to the NHL Second All-Star Team in 2006 and 2008.
- Won the James Norris Memorial Trophy in 2009.
- Won the hardest shot competition at the NHL All-Star Game SuperSkills Competition in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
- NHL All-Star Skills Competition hardest shot record – 105.4 mph, or 169.7 km/h (2009) (surpassed Al Iafrate – 105.2 mph in 1993)
Zdeno Chára married his long-time girlfriend Tatiana Biskupicová on July 14, 2007, in a Catholic church in Nemšová, Slovakia. Tatiana gave birth to the couple’s first child, daughter Elliz Victoria Chára (or Chárová) on April 27, 2009. His father, Zdenek, was a Greco-Roman wrestler who competed for Czechoslovakia in the 1976 Summer Olympics.
Chára is an Athletic Ambassador for Right to Play. In July 2008, he spent two weeks in Africa, going to Mozambique in support of the charity, and then climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro with fellow NHL player Robyn Regehr.