Zdeno Chara a Victim of His Size, With Cam Ward’s Criticisms Providing Latest Reason Why


October 19, 2011

Zdeno Chara a Victim of His Size, With Cam Ward's Criticisms Providing Latest Reason WhyIt ain't easy being huge. Zdeno Chara can tell you that.

The Bruins' 6-foot-9 defenseman is the biggest man to ever put on a pair of skates in the National Hockey League, and while that size works to his advantage, it also puts him constantly under unfair scrutiny.

The latest bit came Tuesday night, when the B's captain rushed to teammate Nathan Horton's defense late in the second period of a 4-1 Hurricanes win.

"The guy's 8 feet tall, and he's jumping a player," said Carolina goalie Cam Ward, who was referencing Chara's involvement with Jay Harrison. "That doesn't translate as being very tough in my eyes."

Forget the obvious hypocrisy of a goalie — the most protected player in hockey — telling reporters after a game that another man isn't tough and look at the message.

He's 8 feet tall. He's too big to do what every other physical player in the NHL does. Being tall and fighting someone isn't very tough. He's too big for that.

It's nothing new for Chara, who gets criticized by the hometown fans if he's not playing physically and gets mocked by the hockey world when he does impose his will on another player. It's a perpetual lose-lose situation.

It reached its apex, of course, last year, when his late shove of Max Pacioretty painted him as the No. 1 most wanted man in Montreal. Had it been any player who was 6-foot-5 or shorter, it would not have been made into the ongoing saga that it was and continues to be in Montreal.

Perhaps Ward's comments shouldn't be taken too seriously, though, as the locker room juggernaut threw some more barbs at the Bruins via reporters.

"I didn't take it as a serious threat," Ward said of B's goalie Tuukka Rask skating the length of the ice for a confrontation. "My heart rate didn't get up or anything. … I'm not gonna waste my time with Tuukka Rask."

Again, questioning someone else's toughness by speaking into reporters' microphones and recorders is always the best way to get your point across. Especially when the person you're insulting led the league and ranked 24 spots ahead of you in goals-against average and 13 spots ahead of you in save percentage in the only season he's spent as a starter in the league. Ward's one of the best goalies in hockey, but treating a 24-year-old up-and-comer like a 36-year-old nobody isn't going to endear him to many folks.

(I also don't remember Ward chiming in on this one. For the record.)

In the case of Chara on Tuesday night, the captain absolutely had to get involved. Just six months ago, he watched Horton get knocked unconscious on that very same sheet of ice. Chara saw Horton ease back into game action during the preseason, and he's seen Horton get off to a sluggish start to the season. All of this took place after Chara had seen teammate Marc Savard return from a concussion, get into a frightening scrap with Bryan Little and soon have his season ended on a routine hit along the boards.

Nathan Horton absolutely can't be fighting, and Chara did what he had to do to ensure that wouldn't happen. That involved grabbing Harrison, who at 6-foot-4 and 211 pounds isn't exactly a peewee.

Should Chara have gotten in a left jab on Harrison before the latter had even seen the former coming? No, of course not, but it's hockey, and Chara's not the only hockey player in the history of the game to land a punch on someone who wasn't looking. Because he's nearly 7 feet tall, he's always treated that way.

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