Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara hoists the Stanley Cup after the Bruins beat Vancouver in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals. On Monday night, Chara became the sixth player in Bruins history to appear in 1,000 games with the team. AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

One thousand games. In one uniform.

Zdeno Chara reached that milestone Monday night in Philadelphia, becoming just the sixth player to play that many games with the spoked B on his chest. What’s more, he’s the only player in Boston Bruins history to play all 1,000 games with the C on the front of his jersey.

When Chara came aboard in 2006, it was impossible to imagine the role he would play in the rebuilding of this proud franchise. The Bruins were adrift aimlessly in an NHL that was still recovering from a lockout in 2004 that canceled the entire 2004-05 season. When hockey resumed, the Bruins traded away captain Joe Thornton in November, making him the only player in the four major sports traded away during an MVP season (Thornton won it with the Sharks).

Chara would sign with Boston that following offseason, finally joining a team he was almost traded to five years earlier. At the 2001 NHL Draft in Sunrise, Florida, then-General Manager Mike O’Connell thought he had worked out a deal to bring the young 6-foot-9 defenseman to Boston. Instead, the New York Islanders traded him to Ottawa, where Chara would establish himself as one of the game’s most ferocious defenders.

In need of a cornerstone to build upon, newly hired Boston GM Peter Chiarelli signed free agent Chara on July 1, 2006, and immediately named him captain of the team. While the Bruins missed out on the playoffs in Chara’s first year with Boston – finishing last in the Northeast Division for the second straight year – they were back in the postseason the following season and have been to the playoffs 10 of the last 12 seasons.

Boston fans often overlook Chara’s importance to the Bruins, even though he is the tallest player in the history of the league. He is the bedrock of the team’s defense, the hulking presence that has allowed young defensemen like Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk to find their way against the best skaters on the planet.

His workout regime, strength, and commitment to fitness are all legendary. As he has grown older – Chara will turn 43 in March – he has doubled down on that commitment and is closing in on 1,500 career games in the NHL.

He’s also an extremely intelligent man who has adapted his game from the clutching-and-grabbing of the early 2000s to the speed-based, wide-open game we watch today. He loves challenges, whether they are physical or mental.

Which is why, incredibly, he owns a real estate license. When he was honored by the New England Sports Museum at its annual Tradition event in November, I asked him why he would bother getting it.

“I was probably too bored with too much time on my hands,” said Chara with a laugh. “I love learning. I get it from my wife (Tatiana). She’s always learning something.”

“I decided to do something in my spare time. We’ll see if I’m ever going to use it, showing houses. It’s good to have. I did it more for my knowledge.”

I joked that Chara could probably fill up a few open houses if he put his face on signs around Boston.

“Yeah,” laughed Chara with a menacing voice. “You have to buy this house!”

It’s doubtful Chara will ever sell you a house. More than a thousand games has given him enough security that he doesn’t need a backup plan. The man who began a Bruins renaissance has secured his place on the ice, and his legacy as one of the most important players in the Golden Age of Boston Sports, and the history of the Boston Bruins.

Tom Caron is a studio host for NESN. His column runs on Tuesdays in the Portland Press Herald.

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