The apologies have begun.
The St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins and Florida Panthers are the first teams to formally apologize to their fans for the lockout, which ended Sunday with the framework of a collective bargaining agreement.
"As we prepare for the season opener, I want to apologize to all Blues fans, especially our season ticket holders, suite holders, and sponsors," Blues owner Tom Stillman wrote Sunday evening. "We share in your disappointment and frustration about the lockout and the lack of Blues hockey over the past three months. As you can imagine, the last thing our new ownership group wanted in our first year was a lockout and no Blues hockey. Everyone in the organization -- the players, hockey management, the front office – would have preferred to start the season on time."
The Penguins and Panthers released statements this morning.
"To our Penguins Fans and Community: We offer our apology," Penguins co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle, and CEO David Morehouse wrote in a joint statement. "There is nothing we can say to explain or excuse what has happened over the past four months. However, now that the NHL is back, we want to assure you that the Pittsburgh Penguins will do everything we can to regain your trust and show how much we value your amazing support."
Wrote Panthers President Michael Yormark: "As if our fans needed yet another challenge to their passion and loyalty, they were then faced with this difficult work stoppage. For that we must apologize. We must also reward your faith and fandom with a special season both on and off the ice.
"We have already taken a step toward that goal, by dedicating the season to our fans and all of our partners as part of the '7th Man' initiative. All season long we will be honoring Cats fans with special features, spotlights, exposure and incredible experiential opportunities.
"Beyond that, we will never miss an opportunity to say thank you, or to go that extra step to make sure your fan experience is as special and as memorable as we can make it. Our fans are the lifeblood of any sports organization, but that is especially true here with the Florida Panthers."