BOSTON (CBS) -- Former Bruins captain Zdeno Chara was once the recipient of arguably the loudest and most intense ovation in the 26-year history of the TD Garden. That moment came during the Stanley Cup Final in June of 2019, when the captain was introduced in the starting lineup just days after suffering a broken jaw in the previous game. So in terms of adulation from Boston fans, Chara's experienced the absolute peak of possibilities.
That may have helped soften the obvious letdown of returning to the TD Garden as a visitor for the first time since 2006, only to be greeted by a sea of empty seats.
Chara, now a member of the Washington Capitals, played in Boston for the first time this season on Wednesday night. During a break in play in the first period, the TD Garden ran a video tribute, one that drew the attention of the players and coaches at ice level but one that obviously didn't reach the eyeballs and hearts of any fans in the empty building.
The Bruins organization obviously did what it could, inviting fans to partake in that video tribute, but with fans not allowed to attend games just yet, Chara's former teammates couldn't help but feel a little empty after watching it.
"It sucks that there's no fans in the building, right? That's half the tribute is when the fans are there and they're cheering, and I believe he would've gotten a pretty long standing ovation," said Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, who was teammates with Chara from 2007-20. "We lived those moments together. It's odd to see him on the other side. But personally for me it wasn't as emotional as it would have been if there were fans in the stands."
"Well, I felt a little bad for him that there wasn't 18,000-plus fans here giving the ovation that he deserved, to be honest with you," Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said. "That would've been a real nice thing for him, but obviously that's not able to be done right now with the circumstances. So too bad for him."
Cassidy said most members of his team processed their emotions when meeting up with Chara during the teams' previous meetings in D.C., so this particular reunion simply got the coach thinking about that memorable ovation in 2019.
"So for me I experienced a bit of that in Washington, to be honest with you. Here, like I said without the crowd, I certainly thought of the St. Louis Final, coming back from a broken jaw was probably the first thing that went through my head," Cassidy said. "And the ovation he got that night I'm sure it would've been very similar."
While this tribute was obviously lacking the necessary ingredients, Brad Marchand decided to look forward to a time when the proper tribute will be able to be made.
"I think the biggest thing is it's unfortunate that fans can't be here to be part of it. Zee's been such a big part of this organization for such a long period of time, it really didn't seem like it was a good enough tribute for him. And that's just because of the situation. But obviously we love Zee, he was a great teammate, and a phenomenal role model for everyone here," said Marchand, who played with Chara from 2009-20. "It's always great to see him and play against him, nice little tribute, but I'm sure he'll enjoy the next one when fans are here."
The City of Boston will allow fans to begin attending games later this month, though only at a 12 percent capacity. The Capitals' next visit to Boston after this week will come on April 18 and April 20. Though the volume of the cheers for Chara on those days won't rival the ovation from 2019, it will at least present an opportunity for some fans to show their appreciation for Chara and his 14 seasons of dedication to the Bruins organization.
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