In addition to expressing their unbridled enthusiasm to play NHL hockey games again, Capitals players haven’t hesitated to offer apologies to the fans who have grown tired of the labor dispute.
They understand the escalating frustration with a professional sport that has lost time to labor disputes twice in the past 10 years and three times in the past 18 but hope that their play will entice fans to return to the game.
“For the fans that got upset and got fed up, we understand,” Troy Brouwer said. “It was a long process that frustrated a lot of us, but to the ones that waited patiently, thank you for waiting and staying true to us. We know that in the upcoming season we’re going to put on a great game with a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of excitement. Hopefully, if the fans come back, they’ll enjoy the type of product we’re putting on the ice.”
Matt Hendricks said he’s glad to get the NHL up and running again, not only so he can play games, but so that the businesses and employees who depend on Capitals games to earn a living can get back to normal, too.
“This lockout didn’t just affect the owners and the players, it affected a lot more people – the people depend on the income around the Verizon Center, at the arena the people that work there,” Hendricks said. “It affected a lot of the people and businesses in that area. We definitely feel for them and we’re going to do our best to give them the best product we can, to bring it back better than ever.”
One of the largest questions for the league as a whole, and individual teams, is how much of a backlash might be felt from angry fans, sponsors and business partners after losing half of a season to the labor dispute. No one knows exactly how many fans might decide to tune the NHL out, how many found new hobbies or interests, or how many might opt not to spend their disposable income on tickets and merchandise.
“The game’s been dragged through the mud here,” Jason Chimera said. “It’s nice to get some good news so hockey fans can be excited again, so they can come back.”
In an interview with TSN Sunday, Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner offered his empathy and hopes that the term of the tentative agreement might help ease some concerns.
“For us, the main thing is just letting them know that we’re sorry and we obviously didn’t want this to go that long,” Alzner told TSN. “We’re happy that people have still been keeping notice and paying attention, even though they’ve been saying they don’t want to watch the games anymore.
“All you can do is hope that they all come back the way that they were right before this lockout happened and get back to playing hockey,” Alzner continued. With an “eight to 10 year CBA length, hopefully that’s a little bit of reassurance for everybody. We’re extremely happy to get back on the ice and can reignite the fire in everybody’s eyes that they had right before the end of last season.”