With the Washington Capitals’ season ending in another first round postseason exit, the team’s players and coaches conducted their annual exit interviews at MedStar Capitals Iceplex with the media, via teleconference, before heading their separate ways for the offseason. In his, 44-year old defenseman Zdeno Chara spoke on his NHL future, playing with Alex Ovechkin, and more.
The Washington Capitals’ signing of Chara prior to the 2020-21 season was one of, if not the, most notable player acquisition General Manager Brian MacLellan made, and in more ways than one, it bore fruit for the team throughout a challenging 2020-21 season.
The 6’9″ rearguard has played over 20 seasons in the NHL and his future in hockey was one of the most pressing questions. However, Chara was non-committal to playing next season, saying:
“Obviously the season didn’t end the way we wanted, but that’s life, you move along. As far as myself and my future, I’m probably going to take a few days to talk to my family and make decisions after”.
When pressed as to what will go into his ultimate decision on his playing future, Chara reiterated that his family will play a big part in it:
“I think it’s not always decisions I can make myself, it’s sometimes, there are things in life that you have to realize, I have to obviously have those conversations with my wife and children and see where we’re going to be in the next few days and weeks. And after those conversations, I’m going to let those emotions settle in and see where I’m at”.
Chara, who has been renowned for his training regimen, said that he felt good throughout the season, saying, “I felt great. It was an obviously condensed season with a lot of games, travel, itineraries, and practices, but I thought the coaching staff, all the trainers, managed it really well, spread the workloads, rest days, between our games and practices…I had a lot of fun, I obviously I love to stay in shape and work out”.
Chara also spoke on playing with Alex Ovechkin, whom he played against for many years:
“Yeah it was great. Since Day 1, got to know Alex in different ways then playing against him on the ice, he’s a great human being, an amazing player, great leader, so to be on the same team was a great experience I will cherish the rest of my life, I’m very grateful for that”.
When asked about the change from going to the Nation’s capital after 14 seasons with the Boston Bruins and going through the handshake line after the Capitals’ first round playoff series loss to his former club, Chara expressed gratitude for the Capitals’ welcoming him to D.C. and the emotions of a playoff exit against his former teammates, “It was a new experience for me, I really enjoyed it. Like I said, since Day 1, everybody welcomed me with open arms, all the credit goes to coaching staff, trainers, all my teammates, they did an amazing job welcoming me and made that transition as easy as possible. I really enjoyed it, it was a great time to spend here, had a lot of fun, we played some great hockey”, he continued, “At that point, it’s obviously disappointing feeling, we all share the same feeling of being eliminated, but you pay the share of respect to your opponent, so obviously congratulated all the Boston Bruins players and coaches for moving on”.
While Chara’s assessment of this season in Washington was overall a positive one, he admitted that being away from his family (who stayed behind in Boston), was a difficult challenge this season:
“Definitely that was one of those things I found the most challenging, being away from my family. At the same time, the accommodation and environment I was in made it much, much easier and better than I expected. So looking forward to seeing my family and my kids again, every day, but definitely that will be a factor going into a decision I’ll be making in the future.”
Chara will be going back to Boston and his family this offseason.
By Michael Fleetwood