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Chára was born in Trenčín, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia). His father, Zdenek, was an Olympic wrestler. He was drafted 56th overall by the New York Islanders in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft. During the 2001 draft, he was traded to the Senators as part of a package-deal with Bill Muckalt and the second overall pick (used to draft Jason Spezza) in exchange for Alexei Yashin.
In 2003 Chára made his first appearance at the NHL All-Star game, and in the skills competition recorded the second hardest shot after Al MacInnis. He was voted on the first NHL All-Star team in 2004, and the second All-Star team in 2006. On January 13, 2007, Zdeno was named to the Eastern Conference roster in the 55th National Hockey League All-Star Game In Dallas, Texas.
He had a career year in 2005-2006, posting personal bests in goals (16), points (43), and shots on goal (212).
On July 1, 2006, he signed a five-year, $37.5 million contract with the Boston Bruins. On October 3, 2006, he was named captain of the Boston Bruins, a role left vacant since Joe Thornton's departure.
Besides playing for the Ottawa Senators and New York Islanders of the NHL, Chára has played on numerous other teams throughout his career. These include HK Dukla Trenčín and HK VTJ Piestany of the Slovak Extraliga, one game with HC Sparta Praha of the Czech Extraliga, Prince George Cougars of the WHL, Kentucky Thoroughblades and Lowell Lock Monsters of the AHL, and most recently during the NHL lock-out of the 2004-05 season he has played for Färjestads BK of the Swedish Elitserien who made it to the finals only to lose to Frölunda HC.
[Note: In addition to playing for HC Sparta Praha and HK Dukla Trenčín, he also played for both of their junior teams. A total of 39 games from the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons]
His name is pronounced [xa:ra] in Slovak.