Corey Crawford is not the only one who needs to prove himself this season. Since the lockout has frustrated and angered a lot of fans all the players and the NHL need to prove that they are ready; ready and sorry for the months of aggravation. We fans have been ready since the season was supposed to start. We have been longing for something to fill the void.
In Chicago the Bears started off the season with some spark but in typical Chicago fashion they let us down. College football was a nice distraction with local Midwest teams making some bowl appearances, but it was still not enough, at least for me. As much as it is a relief that the season is finally starting I am not sure if the NHL or the players are capable of immediately alleviating the damage that was done by simply squeezing in 48 games.
Both Captain Serious, Jonathan Toews, and Crawford have recently made statements reported in the local media, that made me proud as a fan to read. As a member of a bargaining unit myself, I know the importance of negotiations for fair contracts. However, the greed displayed during the past few months leaves bad feelings lingering in the air as we finally begin the season, considering the amount of money involved. We are all excited the hole from no hockey being played will be filled, but for some of us, I don’t think simply playing the game again is enough.
"I'm excited to play hockey again although it's bittersweet because a lot of damage was done to our game. As players we need to keep showing fans we care,” Toews said in the Chicago Tribune on January 17. “We might have a long road ahead of us there. But for now it's great to know we'll be back on the ice very soon.” It is nice to see that he realizes the seriousness of the situation, as young as he is this statement reminds us once again what a great leader he is and how he is deserving of his nickname for so many reasons on and off the ice.
There is more pressure on some players than others. Not only the pressure from the residual effects of the lock out but also the pressure to perform in a shortened season at a peak level and prove they still belong there. “I feel like I need to kind of redeem myself a little bit,” Crawford said Friday according to the Chicago Tribune, “I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting and finally it’s here so I’m getting excited and ready to go.” So are we Corey, so are we.
The players seem to be more down to earth about the effect the lockout had on fans, but words are words they better show us on the ice too. And it is hard for me to believe the owners can even begin to relate to us blue collar guys. So to the NHL and the players I say, how are you going to make it up to us? What will be done to remove this dark cloud still lingering over this season? Season ticket holders who stayed and held out for a resolution should be rewarded in some fashion. The ugly truth is according to the media, the waiting list for Blackhawk season ticket holders grew during the lockout. So the organization probably doesn’t feel too much pressure to do much of anything to apologize to those of us who have been shoveling money into their pockets for years. Why would they when there are hundreds of people just chomping at the bit to take our places?
Announcing the end of the lockout NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said, “We know that no words of apology or explanation will soften the disappointment. I read the letters. I followed the tweets. I read the blogs. We have a lot of work to do. The National Hockey League has a responsibility to win back your trust and support, whether you watch one game or every game.” He said we would be seeing "outreaches" and "campaigns" in the future. So Gar, what you gonna do?
In a very unofficial poll I recently conducted I found two things, people want free stuff and a mere written “We’re Sorry” to the fans would help. A written acknowledgement of the mess they made, especially to the season ticket holders who made the owners money during the lockout through the interest THEY made off OUR money while WE waited, may go a long way. Some other suggested ways to apologize; beer/food specials like BOGO, discounted tickets for certain games, free play-off tickets, VIP games with meet and greet and/or opportunity to upgrade to Kettle One Clubs for game, private invites to practices, entrance to raffles with free trips to away games, more than one fan appreciate night with jersey give away and my own idea, freeze season ticket prices for at least two years to rebuild the trust. I am sorry to tell some of my guy friends that the idea of having the Ice Girls visit them to apologize in person probably won’t come to fruition. Seeing some previous posts comments, most fans don’t have the faith in Mr. Wirtz to be too generous with his apology gesture. Let’s see how he handles this; it will be interesting for sure.
As far as the players are concerned the only thing they can really do is play the game with all the heart they can, stay healthy and earn those paychecks. And in particular to the Blackhawks players, my step son’s personal request to make it up to him….WIN THE CUP AGAIN!