'We should be playing'

While Zdeno Chara insists no fans have been rude about the lockout, all have made it clear they...

While Zdeno Chara insists no fans have been rude about the lockout, all have made it clear they want both sides to get back to the business of negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement. (Bruce Bennett Studios)

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:01 AM ET

The Senators' big man has been getting an earful from Ottawa hockey fans.

Then again, when you're 6-foot-9, it isn't exactly easy to hide from it.

Defenceman Zdeno Chara, one of the Senators' most recognizable faces, is still in town rehabbing an injured thumb. And he's been in a lot of places where hockey fans are quick to let him know how they feel about the current NHL labour deadlock.

While Chara insists none of them have been rude about it, all have made it clear they want both sides to get back to the business of negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement so the games can finally begin.

"Mostly the fans just joke around and tell me that we should be playing hockey," said Chara. "I don't blame them (for being upset). They want to see us playing, but I think a lot of them understand what's happening right now is the business part of game. That's tough for everyone.

"They wish that we were playing, not just because they want to see the games, it's because they know there's a lot of people who are affected by this. It's not just the teams and players losing money. There's restaurants, business and people are losing their jobs. That's the saddest part of all of this."

Chara signed with Farjestad of the Swedish Elite League last month, but he's still working out at the Corel Centre until a thumb injury he suffered while playing for Slovakia in the World Cup of Hockey last month is completely healed.

Under the rules of the lockout, Chara is allowed to go to the rink every day for treatment by the team's staff until he's deemed healthy. He'll receive a portion of the $4.6 million (all terms US) he was scheduled to make this season.

Right now, Chara and defenceman Wade Redden (shoulder) are the only players allowed in the dressing room. It should be noted Redden is receiving part of his $4.7 million salary. Oddly enough, those salaries are being paid by the NHL and NHLPA under an agreement drawn up before the tournament.

"It's getting better. I'm not sure how long it's going to be, but I'm probably about three weeks away," said Chara. "I've been able to skate, but I've had a difficult time handling the puck and that's something I've been working on a little bit.

"Hopefully, it will improve quickly and I can get back to playing."

The injury has delayed Chara's career in Europe. He had planned to play with his home-town team in Trencin, Slovakia, but they didn't have room for him on the roster with Senators winger Marian Hossa, St. Louis' Pavol Demitra and Minnesota's Marian Gaborik already there.

Chara decided to sign in Sweden because of the strong level of competition. There were concerns he'd be forced to cut down his stick -- it's 13 centimetres longer than the league allows -- but the Swedes will likely make an exception for Chara, a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenceman last season.

"The one thing you want to do is keep playing to make sure that you stay in shape," said Chara. "To get the chance to play when a lot of players are locked out is important. You look at Sweden and it's one of the top leagues in the world.

"There's a lot of NHLers on a lot of teams there and the competition should be pretty good. When I got the call to go to Sweden, I felt like this would be a good fit for me in a pretty good league. Everybody is hoping it will get settled over here, but this will keep me playing until something gets done."


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