Who would have thought we’d have a news dump early on a Tuesday morning? And yet here we are as hockey fans seeing three great defensemen walking way simultaneously.
On Tuesday morning, the Boston Bruins announced Zdeno Chara is signing a one-day contract to retire as a member of their organization.
Chara, 45, played the last couple years with players who were born after he was drafted by the New York Islanders in 1996; this summer’s draft class was born in 2004, at which point Chara had played 459 games already.
He appeared in 24 NHL seasons, 14 of which were with the Bruins. He led Boston to one Stanley Cup victory and another Final appearance in 2013 (we all know how that turned out).
But Chara’s legacy to me stands out more for what he — with Marian Hossa — did to change the narrative around Slovakia as a hockey country. They elevated Slovakia on the world stage. He was one of the greatest to ever put on skates; his Norris Trophy and seven all-star game appearances tell us he was a terrific player. His Mark Messier Leadership Award speaks to his character.
We then learned that PK Subban is also walking away.
Subban, 33, played 13 NHL seasons with the first six coming in Montreal. Like Chara, he has a Norris Trophy at home and had some special seasons while with the Habs. The trade that sent him to Nashville for Shea Weber was shocking for both fan bases and the league as a whole, and it worked out to an extent on the ice. But Subban was such a big part of the Canadiens’ identity off the ice it never felt right seeing him in another sweater.
Subban’s $10 million commitment to the children’s hospital in Montreal will be a legacy that far outlives his playing career. He changed lives, something many athletes don’t consider or ever do. That wasn’t a token gift, either; he backed up his dollars with action, returning to Montreal to host a Christmas party every year even after he was no longer playing in the city.
Lots of people didn’t like him on the ice because of the edge he played with, but Subban represented the game well.
Finally, Keith Yandle also announced his retirement on Tuesday morning.
Yandle, 36, doesn’t have a Norris Trophy at home. But he retires with the longest consecutive games played streak in NHL history. He appeared in 989 straight games and was a solid offensive defenseman for years.
He spent nine of his 16 years with the Coyotes and calls it a career with 1,109 total games played.
What do these four guys share in common? They had great NHL careers — and not one of them was a first-round draft pick. Yandle was a fourth rounder in 2005. Subban was a second rounder in 2007. And Chara was a third rounder in 1996. Yup, the last player drafted in the 1990s is finally walking away.
Three long careers coming to an end on the same morning is a sure sign of a changing of the guard in the NHL.