Twenty years later, Chara returns to the team that drafted him. The Isles agreed to a one-year contract with the 44-year-old on Saturday, as he spoke with reporters about playing another season and coming back to New York.
"You never know how your career will evolve and how it will end up, obviously nobody can really imagine to be kind of finishing where they start," Chara said. "It just worked out that way, and I'm glad it did. I'm happy to be an Islander again. That's just the way sometimes it works."
Chara has played for four teams over his 23-year career, including 14 seasons with the Boston Bruins from 2006-20. He mentioned that his family still lives in Boston, so location was a big factor on where he would decide to play. Chara wouldn't share which other teams had interest in him, but mentioned that there were others besides the Isles.
"Well it's kind of a full circle, who would knew this would kind of work out the way it did after twenty-something years," Chara said. "I'm certainly very honored and humbled to be an Islander again. Obviously the organization went through some transitions over the course of 20 years, but I think that we all see the progress and positivity that the team has had.
"Discussions with the family has been going on probably the whole summer. That was important to me that my family would feel comfortable and ready for me to play another and be away from them. But at the same, not too far."
The Isles finished the 2020-21 regular season with a 32-17-7 record (71 points) and were fourth in the NHL East Division. They beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2 in the first-round of the playoffs, and defeated the Bruins in six games as well. Their season came to an end in the Conference Finals, falling to the eventual Stanley Cup winning Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games.
Chara believes his passion and love for the game can still contribute to a team that'll have high expectations in the upcoming season.
"I love the game, I have passion for the game and believe that I can still play," Chara said. "Those are the things you need. I think you don't need to say much besides having love for the game and having passion for it and wanting to win."