Zdeno Chara, the oversized fixture on Causeway Street since the fall of 2006, played his 1,000th game in a Boston uniform last month, an achievement celebrated Saturday prior to the Bruins erasing the Coyotes, 4-2, with the captain logging 23:51 of ice time on 25 shifts.
Just another day at the office for Big Z, even if the 10-minute pregame fete for him framed Game No. 1,009 in Black-and-Gold service a bit differently.
“I’m sure I am going to have time for that,” said Chara, asked if he could recall the first time he ever heard of Boston, no doubt during childhood days in then-Czechoslovakia. “Again . . . there are some incredible players that play for this team and this organization. They have done such an amazing job.”
Obviously touched by the ceremony, Chara added, “I am just a small piece of the puzzle and I am always trying to do my share of work and kind of leave a footprint in this organization. I am just a regular guy, honestly, I am just trying to do my job, do it well, the best I can — I love the game.”
Alternate captains Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Brad Marchand presented Chara with an array of gifts on behalf of Big Z’s teammates, including a watch, a book full of written memories, and an all-expense-paid vacation for Chara and family to a destination of the captain’s choice.
Chara was joined on the ice for the ceremony by wife Tatiana, daughter Elise, and sons Zack and Ben.
Team president Cam Neely presented Chara with a golden stick, celebrating his 1,000th game in Black and Gold (all as captain) and for 1,500 NHL games.
Chara, who signed here as a free agent on July 1, 2006, first played 231 games with the Islanders and then 299 with the Senators prior to his arrival in the Hub of Hockey.
Former Bruin Joe Thornton is the only other player in NHL history to play 1,000 games with one club (San Jose) after first playing 500 games elsewhere.
The Bruins also presented Chara with a large oil painting (artist: Tony Harris) that depicts him playing in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, the 2019 Winter Classic (at Notre Dame), and as he looks with today’s 2019-20 roster.
Chara now has played 1,009 games for the Black and Gold, and 1,539 in the NHL, not including his 182 playoff games (T-35 all time).
Big Z turns 43 years old next month. How much longer will he play?
“You’ve asked me a few times,” he said to a Globe reporter. “Again, it is something I haven’t thought about . . . really being honest with you. I am keeping an open mind. I said many times, there are guys [to sign] that are obviously a priority for this team, so they have to be signed before me and we’ll see where we’re at.”
Much in common
Towering Arizona goalie Adin Hill was born in Comox, British Columbia, and played his junior hockey for WHL Portland. Ditto for Neely. However, Hill was a third-round pick by the Coyotes in 2015 while Neely went No. 9 overall in 1983 by the hometown Canucks . . . A possible call-up if the Bruins do reach down to Providence for a defenseman: Alex Petrovic. He is a righty. Charlie McAvoy was the only righty back there Saturday against the Coyotes . . . Connor Clifton, yet to play since the calendar flipped to 2020, was not on the postgame flight to Detroit and will rejoin the club for Tuesday’s workout in Brighton. According to coach Bruce Cassidy, a likely target for Clifton’s return to action would be next weekend, be it at home with the Red Wings on Saturday or the next day against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden . . . Jaroslav Halak, 3-0 in his last three starts, will get the call Sunday against the Wings, who have all but guaranteed that they’ll have the most Ping-Pong balls in the barrel in April when the league decides the pecking order for the June draft. The Wings entered weekend play with a 1-8-1 record over their most recent 10 games and ranked No. 30 overall with a 13-39-4 mark . . . Former Bruin Phil Kessel, flipped from the Penguins to the Coyotes in the offseason, entered the afternoon with a lackluster line of 11-20—31 and also stood a Coyote-ugly minus-22 . . . Boston’s worst plus/minus prior to Saturday: Chris Wagner (minus-9) . . . Free agent-to-be Taylor Hall, dealt from the Devils to the Coyotes on Dec. 16, produced nearly a point per game (7-12—19 in 21 games) for his new club prior to arriving on Causeway Street. Hall, 28, is on target to land one of the largest three contracts when the unresricted free agent period opens on July 1. Blues backliner Alex Pietrangelo, who just turned 30 years old, could bring the biggest bundle of UFA bucks . . . The NHL trade deadline is two weeks from Monday. Waived three weeks ago, David Backes remains out of uniform and has not reported to AHL Providence (per mutual agreement). It remains possible that Backes, 35, gets tucked into a deal at the trade deadline, albeit with the Bruins retaining some of the $5 million salary he has remaining on his deal through the end of next season. He already has collected some $25 million of the $30 million promise the Bruins made him when signing here on July 1, 2016.