At 43-years-old, Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara is not only the oldest defenseman in the National Hockey League, but also the oldest active player in its entirety.And he is just getting older… Chara turns 43 today, March 18. But despite his age, Chara is playing at a level as if he is years younger.
The 6-foot-9 Slovak is racking up time on ice. His average 21:01 minutes is second on the team right behind defensive-pair Charlie McAvoy with 23:10 who is almost exactly 20 years younger than the veteran.
In 68 games so far this season, Chara has matched his stats from last season; five goals and nine assists for 14 points. Sure, his point production has been on the decline since 2013-2014 where he tallied 40 points, but scoring is not what Chara’s role is. Head coach Bruce Cassidy relies on him in the most crucial defensive situations such at the penalty kill, and that is where the results of his new diet show.
Just about three seasons ago, Chara announced that he was on a total plant-based diet when he was around the age of 40. The transition came after New England Patriots star-quarterback Tom Brady made headlines for his plant-based diet when he reached the age of 40 and was still performing as one of the most successful players in the National Football League.
While the rest of the regular season is on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is unknown if these stats for Chara will remain or possibly add up if the NHL decides to continue play some time later.
Therefore how do the points and stats that Chara is putting up at the age of 43 compare to previous 40-plus-year-olds in past NHL seasons?
Over the last 20 seasons, there have been 14 other defensemen that have played at the age of 40 or over. Some, like Chara, have played in multiple seasons while in their 40s.
Of the last four seasons, Chara is the only defenseman to have played in his 40s. You have to go back to the 2014-2015 season before the next 40-plus defenseman shows up in the records.
Sergei Gonchar (Montreal Canadiens), 41: 48 GP, 1 G, 13 A, 14 pts, +6
Kimmo Timonen (Chicago Blackhawks), 40: 16 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 pts, -3
Sergei Gonchar (Dallas Stars), 40: 76 GP, 2 G, 20 A, 22 pts, -12
No defensemen 40+
Nicklas Lidstrom (Detroit Red Wings), 41: 70 GP, 11 G, 23 A, 34 pts, +21
Sean O’Donnell (Chicago Blackhawks), 40: 51 GP, 0 G, 7 A, 7 pts, -6
Nicklas Lidstrom (Detroit Red Wings), 40: 82 GP, 13 G, 46 A, 62 pts, -2
Rob Blake (San Jose Sharks), 40: 70 GP, 7 G, 23 A, 30 pts, +14
Tommy Albelin (New Jersey Devils), 41: 36 GP, 0 G, 6 A, 6 pts, +4
No defensemen 40+, Albelin did not play this season
Chris Chelios (Detroit Red Wings), 42: 69 GP, 2 G, 19 A, 21 pts, +12
James Patrick (Buffalo Sabres), 40: 55 GP, 4 G, 7 A, 11 pts, +11
Al MacInnis (St. Louis Blues), 40: 3 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 pts, -1
Chris Chelios (Detroit Red Wings), 41: 66 GP, 2 G, 17 A, 19 pts, +4
Chris Chelios (Detroit Red Wings), 40: 79 GP, 6 G, 33 A, 39 pts, +40
Grant Ledyard (Tampa Bay Lightning), 40: 53 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 4 pts, -5
Ray Bourque (Colorado Avalanche), 40: 80 GP, 2 G, 19 A, 21 pts, -6
Larry Murphy (Detroit Red Wings), 40: 57 GP, 2 G, 19 A, 21 pts, -6
No defensemen 40+
Looking at these statistics of defensemen who were 40 or older over the last twenty seasons, it is safe to say that Chara is performing in the middle of the road compared to these players.
Chara has been in the league for 22 years. While his role has changed during his time here in Boston, his impact both on and off the ice has stayed the same.
With this season being the last on his current contract, it is unkown what Chara will decide to do; retire, or keep playing? And if so, where?
But if there is one thing that is certain, it’s that while Chara has not spent his entire 22 years in the NHL with Boston, he has been a Bruin for a majority of those years. And, he will remain a Bruin for life.