There are few entities in life that are as meaningful yet powerful than time. Time has the ability to add value to a moment, or enhance the memory created by people. When anniversaries come along, we often think or ask ourselves “Where has time gone?” For an organization like the Boston Bruins, there are so many indelible dates that are often associated with the long history of the franchise.
That is the exact question that comes to mind when July 1st, 2006 comes to mind.
For starters, it was the start of a unforgettable summer for many reasons. For the B’s, it is a date that is seared in the mind and hearts of Bruins fans. In my mind, it was the start of a seismic change of epic proportions for an organization coming off a last place finish (29-37-16) in the Northeast Division for the 2005-2006 season. Major changes needed to be made by the organization, but no one knew which direction the Boston Bruins were going to go.
Enter: Ottawa Senators defenseman Zdeno Chara.
The arrival of Free Agent Zdeno Chara began a new era in Boston Bruins’ hockey.
When Chara signed with Boston on July 1st, 2006, no one could have forseen the impact Chara’s signing would have on the franchise.
As I reflect on what that moment meant to the B’s, I can’t help but think about where the franchise was at — a bottom dweller in the division and Eastern Conference, just only ahead of the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. This was an organization that was once a proud franchise only to have had fallen on lean years in the late 90s early 2000s.
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Chara’s signing did not pay immediate dividends. In fact, he struggled his first season with the Bruins during the 2006-07 season. However, what was noticeable was his leadership and burning desire to want to be a cornerstone piece for an organization yearning to return to respectability and ultimately Stanley Cup contention. Chara’s reign of dominance as the best defenseman in the NHL was a major reason why the Black and Gold won the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1972 on June 15th, 2011.
15 years after the Bruins signed Chara, how does one begin to quantify the impact he has made on the organization, the city of Boston, and all of New England?
You simply can’t.
Chara was a major reason why the Bruins began the rise to NHL prominence in the 2007-08 season. His leadership and his legendary work ethic became his calling card as captain of the Bruins. His size, strength, and respect he commanded on the ice made opponents wary of crossing the line — at their own peril.
As Bruins fans and media continue to celebrate and reflect on the 10-year anniversary of the Boston Bruins’ 2011 Stanley Cup Championship, I would be hard pressed to find a more meaningful free-agent signing whose impact forever changed the organization and locker-room culture in Boston. Chara’s impact on the locker room and teammates are still felt today, despite no longer being a member of the organization following his departure via free agency signing with the Washington Capitals in December 2020.
None of the success the B’s have achieved in the last 15 years happens without the signing of Zdeno Chara. Chara captained the Black and Gold to two more appearances in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2013 and 2019. Despite coming up short in both Stanley Cup Finals, the championship expections still remained a constant throughout Chara’s tenure with Boston.
15 years ago to the day, the Boston Bruins franchise changed forever with the signing of free agent defenseman Zdeno Chara. 15 years later, his impact on the team, city, and region is felt even long after his departure from the Bruins.