Chara cries foul over calls

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

OTTAWA -- As perhaps the National Hockey League's most effective big man, 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara needs no one to fight his battles.

But Ottawa Senators head coach Bryan Murray was in his corner yesterday, interpreting his defenceman's controversial comments he made to the Ottawa Sun. Chara said the league's draconian approach to penalizing defensive positioning could hurt the game, as a spectator sport, as well as punish him just for being big.

"I think they have to respect the history of the game a little bit," Chara said Saturday, the night the Sens and Pittsburgh Penguins took 27 combined minors in a 6-2 Ottawa win. "I can understand them wanting to get rid of (obstruction). But I think they should still allow the pushing and battling in front of the net. Otherwise, you're going to have games where it's 10-8 and 10-9. People are eventually going to get tired of that, too. Look at basketball where they score 100 points. Fans don't go crazy with every point.

"There has to be something in between where they can make it exciting for everybody."

Murray said he knew where his Norris Trophy runner-up defenceman was coming from.

"He's frustrated," Murray said, citing examples of goals being scored in pre-season where defencemen backed away from hitting forwards who bang away at rebounds. "At the net, you have to allow the defencemen to battle for position. Any player who is strong or powerful should be allowed to play their position with authority. If someone goes to the front of the net and plants themselves and he has the strength to move him, he shouldn't be called.

"In turn, if he doesn't move his feet and he reaches with his stick, he should get two minutes."

Like Toronto counterpart Pat Quinn, Murray has watched with concern as players across the league beat a path to the penalty box this month. But the former general manager sees the league's argument, too.

"I hate to see this number of penalties, but I'm of the mind it's like teaching school -- if you do it right the first time, you don't have to worry about it later on.

"I think we've given up (in previous attempts on crackdowns) because of pressure; external or from ownership and management. We gave in. So I hope ... we stick to it. I guarantee you by November the players will have made a huge adjustment in how they get defensive position."

Murray also thinks the NHL's officiating and hockey operations departments will eventually become more tolerant.

"If all the hooking and holding penalties are called that are supposed to be called, then guys will move the puck quicker and be in better position to attack," Murray said.

He doesn't believe physical hockey will erode.

"There will be lots of contact. The defencemen are getting rattled quite often now because there is no obstruction on the forecheck. I think the physical part of the game will be there; except there won't be occasion to fight unless (designated tough guys) face off."


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