'Ottawa is my home'

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:26 AM ET

It's going to take a while to get used to it, seeing him skating around with the hub and that "B" in the middle on his chest.

Boston Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara (still sounds odd) has been skating with the other NHL players around town here for a few days as they start to crank it up for training camp.

If the coolness in the night air or those first leaves turning a fiery red aren't enough to do it, the real hockey guys getting together for some pickup is a sure sign summer is now on the DL and listed as day-to-day.

Chara, who's been in Ottawa off and on this summer, skated again yesterday with some of the Senators and other NHLers who spend their summers here before he heads off to Boston at the end of the week.

The crest on his chest says Chara is now a Bruin, but his heart, he says, is still here in Ottawa.

If that sounds trite and something you might expect him to say to an Ottawa writer, Chara revealed yesterday Ottawa right now is his first choice as his home when his playing days are done.

"I'm going to stay here. I'm not going back to Europe. I've gotten used to the North American style. I think Ottawa is going to be my home (when he retires)," said the 29-year-old.

"I'm going to live here. Too bad things didn't work out."

Not that he'll need the money when he takes his Freedom 35 or 40 or whatever it is, but Chara can get a job with the tourism board as he extolled Ottawa's virtues yesterday.

"It's a pretty laid back city. It's a place to relax. You can go for a hike, walk around, go to Gatineau Park, there's a river close by. If you want to go downtown it takes you 15 or 20 minutes," he said, ticking off the reasons why he wants to live here.

"I think it's a good environment. I like Canada a lot. We'll see maybe in a year or two I'll change my mind, but definitely I want to stay in Canada."

It was clear yesterday he isn't happy with the way things turned out here. We'll probably never know exactly what happened, what was said and wasn't said in the days and weeks leading up to Chara signing with the Bruins.

The easiest spin -- and one that suits the Senators after having lost him to free agency -- is Chara wanted more than the Senators could afford.

He signed in Boston for $7.5 million a year for five years, obviously more than the Senators could afford given the number and quality of players they needed to sign this off-season.

What's not quite clear is how hard the Senators tried to keep Chara.

'DISAPPOINTED'

When Senators defenceman Wade Redden signed a two-year deal worth $13 million at the end of June, confirming Chara's days with the Senators were over, Chara's agent, Matt Keator said in an e-mail Chara was "happy for Wade, he is a good teammate and a great guy, but is also disappointed that Ottawa was not more aggressive in retaining him."

Chara said it himself yesterday.

There was little or no contact on the club's behalf in that period when it had the exclusive opportunity to sign Chara.

"It's a process where you have the whole season, a whole year to sign a player," he said, reluctantly revisiting what is obviously still a sore point with him.

"It's totally up to the team. It's not up to the player. It's up to the team to sign him. I believe in one thing. If you really want something, you go for it. If you don't, you don't. What can I say?"

Chara said his first choice all along was to stay here.

"For sure. For sure. I was really trying hard. I would have liked to have stayed ... I would have liked to have got it done, but it didn't happen."

As Chara talked to a couple of writers in the lobby of the rink where the players skated yesterday, a few kids came over for autographs.

"Good luck in Boston," said one little guy, with a downcast look on his face.

So now Chara becomes the best ex-Senator out there, one with maybe a bit of a chip on his shoulder (that's a long way for that chip to fall, by the way) playing in the same division with eight games between the two clubs on the horizon.

It's still August and summer is on the limp and lord knows you don't want to wish away the last golden days but Oct. 28 -- the first game between the Senators and the Bruins -- isn't really that far off, is it?


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