Last week we learned that a legendary Boston sports figure was moving on when it was announced that Zdeno Chara was leaving the Bruins, signing a one-year contract with the Washington Capitals.
Thus, the cycle was complete, as all four major local professional sports teams lost an impact player in 2020. That fact really didn’t hit me until I put it in that context. This past year, as we were consumed by coronavirus news on a daily basis, huge sports stories such as these did not get the attention they normally would have.
The first domino to fall, and the most impactful, was the departure of the Patriots’ Tom Brady. But who recalls it being the earth-shattering news that we might have expected? Maybe because the football season was so far off that it didn’t seem real. Perhaps because many weren’t surprised given the abrupt post-season ending last year. Even as we went through this past anomaly of a season with no fans and rescheduled games, Brady as a Buccaneer (and Gronk as well) took a while to seem real to me. Now, on the eve of the NFL playoffs, with Brady back in the post-season and the Patriots having already emptied their lockers, this is as big a sports story as it gets.
If Brady’s departure was earth-shattering, then the Red Sox allowing Mookie Betts to be traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers was mind-boggling. What was the deal again? Does anybody recall who the Red Sox got in return? No, COVID-19 concerns put that on the back burner. Again, as the boys of summer attempted a normal season, nobody noticed. That is until the end of the season when Mookie was hitting clutch RBI doubles in the World Series for this year’s champions. For the record, the Dodgers gave up three prospects in exchange for the former American League MVP and former Cy Young Award pitcher David Price. They are: outfielder Alex Verdugo, shortstop Jeter Downs, and catcher Connor Wong. Only in 2020, I guess.
Although not on the same impactful scale as the other three departures, the Celtics losing Gordon Hayward to the Charlotte Hornets still stings. He was supposed to be the missing link to get the locals to hang banner number 18 from the rafters. It never was what it was supposed to be. He broke his tibia in his first game in Green and missed the whole season. A broken hand and sprained ankle in subsequent seasons derailed his road back to NBA all-star status. And watching him in the Eastern Conference finals this season missing easy layups told me it was time for him to go.
Speaking of time to go, that brings us back to Chara. I appreciate the 14 years of service he gave the Bruins as team captain. He restored that big, bad Bruins persona that we all grew up watching. The Canadiens fans hated him, which was all the more reason to like him. I will always cherish the scene of him skating with the Stanley Cup in Vancouver in 2011. But honestly, folks, the gas tank was emptying. Admit it, how many times did you yell “bleeping Chara” at the television? I am not surprised he left, but I am surprised he did not retire at 43 years old. So, we haven’t seen the last of him. The Bruins and the Washington Capitals play eight times this season.
Who knows what sports losses 2021 will bring? I can’t imagine, and certainly hope, that we don’t get one from every Boston sports franchise again. And rest assured, Hull sports fans, that not every sports legend leaves us.
I don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon. 😊