MONTREAL – It wasn’t surprising that the first-class Montreal Canadiens organization opted to acknowledge Bruins captain Zdeno Chara playing in his 1500th NHL game on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre.
Any player getting to 1,500 games played is worthy of recognition and Chara is just the sixth NHL defensemen in league history to get to that mark, with only Nicklas Lidstrom, Ray Bourque, Larry Murphy, Scott Stevens and Chris Chelios still ahead of him on the all-time list. When Chara popped up on the jumbotron with the 1,500 games played graphic, there was a smattering of boos with the cheers for a player that has routinely been booed at the Bell Centre during the Bruins/Canadiens rivalry.
But it quickly became a loud, long ovation from Canadiens fans with Chara standing up at the Bruins bench, waving, clapping to the fans and mouthing the words “thank you” during the TV timeout.
It was a remarkable, meaningful moment given how much bad blood has gone on between Chara and Canadiens fans in his career, and it was duly noted by the Bruins captain following Boston’s 5-4 loss.
“Obviously, that felt really nice. I really appreciated it and it was very classy,” said Chara. “It’s something that I will definitely remember. [The boos in the past] just shows that they are very passionate fans and they support their team. It’s pretty normal for Canadien fans to show so much support for their team. We’ve had some good battles and it’s a good rivalry. There’s a lot of history with both teams, so it’s always fun to play in these games.”
It was a short eight years ago when Chara knocked Max Pacioretty into the stanchion at the Bell Centre and caused a massive uproar with Habs fans that flooded Quebec 911 lines calling for his arrest for assaulting the Montreal forward. That was probably the height of his role as a villain in the rivalry and led to him getting booed lustily each time he touched the puck for years after that.
Clearly, that’s now water under the bridge with Chara’s career on track for the Hall of Fame once he decides to stop playing, and milestones like the 1,500 games played coming with more regularity as he keeps on going at 42 years old. Chara’s teammates and the Bruins coaching staff have obviously been in awe of his longevity for a while and were happy that the knowledgeable Habs fans showed their respect for his 20-plus year career as well.
“I thought it was great…classy,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Listen, this is one of the Original Six right here and they’ve got a lot of classy fans in Montreal. Just because it’s a Bruins/Habs rivalry and if they like the Canadiens it doesn’t mean I dislike their fans. They’re good people and they know hockey, so I was glad to see it.”
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