The NHL and the Chicago Blackhawks are returning. The question is whether you, the fan, will do the same.
That's what we recently asked our readers, and the answers poured in from young and old throughout the world. Blackhawks fans are undoubtedly passionate about their team, and that's revealing in their responses.
Here's the collection of emails we received this past week from Blackhawks fans on their feelings about their team, the lockout and the upcoming season:
"I get it's a business move, but it's just that. They took nothing into consideration concerning fans. The very people that support the league and teams. We, the fans, spend our hard-earned money saving up to go to games and buy merch. The owners seem to take us for granted and it’s a shame. They know whenever they decide to work out a deal we will come back. Us diehards, the ones that stay up late to watch every game including West Coast games when we have to be up early for work the next day and know it'll be a long day, but at least we got to see our team play (and hopefully win). Us who not only love the Hawks, but hockey in general. People who will watch any games on TV and even purchase the Center Ice package because hockey is OUR sport. We don't live for football, baseball, or NASCAR. They took away our escape from the rigors of everyday society, the ability to kick back and watch our teams play. This diehard won’t be coming right back." -- Denis Burns, 26, Minooka, Ill.
"From my part, there is no resentment towards the players nor the owners. The NHL is a business, and all of us would do the exact same thing if put in the same situations. Owners and players were trying to get the best deal possible, and all of us would do the same. That's why there are strikes. If a bus driver goes on strike, he knows it will affect the people that need the bus to go to work, but he is doing what is best for him. I know that players and owners have a lot more money, but business is business." -- Alexandre Farripas, 23, Portugal
"I'm extremely frustrated with the NHL, and that it took this long from a bunch of guys who ‘care about the game.’ It's about money to them -- plain and simple. For me, boycotting games or broadcasts does nothing for me; I am a hockey fan and I want hockey. My response: buy Stanley Cup Finals tickets (hopefully for the Hawks!) and ‘boo’ Bettman out of the building." -- Mike Bragg, 20, Oak Lawn, Ill.
"Yes, I will be back. As mad as I was at both sides, I am glad they are back and can't wait to go to my first game. Kind of reminds me of the Prodigal Son. No matter how many mistakes the owners and players have made, it is still really great to have them back!!" -- Shelly Gottlieb, 52, Greenwood, Ind.
"I'm just glad the season is a go. I was angry at the beginning due to the fact I purchased away tickets for the games in St. Louis because I live in Southern Illinois, but I am just glad there is going to be another season." -- Jon Medved, 23, Troy, Ill.
"I'm very excited about the upcoming season, especially after hearing they'll be opening up the season in LA on Jan. 19. I'm a San Diego resident, Chicago transplant, and I never miss an LA or Anaheim game. Hopefully with the banner going up that night, too, tickets won't be an arm and a leg!" -- Adam Benoist, 32, San Diego, Calif.
"I personally cannot wait for the season to start up and the lockout will not affect my fandom or how many games I go to. In fact it might have affected me in a positive way by making me realize how much I wanted the Hawks back." -- Jim Keaty, 25, Evergreen Park, Ill.
"As soon as I heard the lockout was lifted, I fired up 'Chelsea Dagger.' The Blackhawks are fun to watch again, so every game lost to the lockout added to the Chicago sports mantra of 'what might have been.' Now that they're back I don't have to watch meaningless college basketball games to hold me over until the return of MLB and D-Rose." -- Eric Johnson, 37, Rock Hill, S.C.
"At this point, I'm done pointing fingers at anyone in particular, even if they deserved it. I just want to watch my favorite players play at this point. I probably won't go to any games, partially because I know they'll still be expensive, and partially because what transpired in the past few months is inexcusable." -- Keith Kosmal, 25, Midlothian, Ill.
"When I bought my tickets for this season, I knew full well that a lockout was imminent. Countless times my tireless optimism over the minute possibility of a deal being struck was cast aside as the owners and players postured, flexed, and ultimately walked away from the bargaining table yet again. I actually dialed the Hawks ticket office at one point ready to ask for a refund in my tickets for the year, vowing to myself I'd never pay to attend a game again. But I realized how truly disappointed I would be if I wasn't in the Madhouse crowd the night the first puck was dropped. So here I am, right back at square one, anxiously awaiting the schedule to find out who I will see on opening night at the UC." -- Rodney Nelson, 22, Chicago
"Unfortunately, I will be coming back to all things NHL this year because of one reason; hockey is and will continue to be the greatest sport on the planet. No other major sports has the humble and personable athletes that the NHL possesses and it is a shame that many fans will view them as greedy and whiny now. I live for hockey and I do not have the self-discipline that it would require for me to not turn the TV on to the games or attending one in person at the UC." -- Edward Solomon, 22, Glencoe, Ill.
"I will watch/listen to all games right away. I just love the game to much to stay away. I'm extremely disappointed at both players and owners that this couldn't get resolved sooner. However more than anything I blame Gary Bettman. Lockout No. 3 under his watch just isn't good." -- Gary Winters, 32 Rockford, Ill.
"I really am more disappointed with the players this go around. It seems to me they do not understand record revenues DO NOT mean record profits for teams. The previous system was flawed and absolutely needed to be changed to ensure long-term stability and growth for the league. It's easy for the media and fans to point fingers at the uber-wealthy owners, but I hope people understand that the players are just as much to blame, or even more to blame for the latest lockout debacle (in my opinion). Let's not forget these owners are extremely successful, financially savvy people who know how to run businesses. They know what's best to ensure that the NHL becomes more financially respectable." -- Bryan Fairholm, 25, Chicago
"Seeing what Gary Bettman, the owners and the NHLPA have done to this great game is disturbing. Under Bettman's watch NHL fans have lost the equivalent of two full seasons and one Stanley Cup playoff. It is unacceptable. There needs to be serious changes in how the game is managed. These people are supposed to be the caretakers of the game and they have let down the fans, the arena workers and others whose livelihood depends on hockey repeatedly." -- Steve Michaels, 48, Ocala, Fla.
"I am really looking forward to the start of the season ... finally. I think the interest in hockey will be down throughout the league, which will affect attendance and revenues, but not in Chicago and not for the Blackhawks. The United Center will be packed and sold out every game throughout the season. Chicago loves the Hawks! According to ESPN, Chicago led all NHL teams in overall attendance last year. I am confident that ranking won't change, even with the shortened season." -- Matt Carr, 25, Chicago
"Being a big fan of hockey ever since I was little, I'll feel as if the lockout could have ended much earlier than this. ... The owners were being greedy, and the players just wanted to play, so all in all, I'm happy hockey is back!" -- Andrew Fortenberry, 18. Manteno, Ill.
"I'm glad to see we didn't have to miss another season of the Blackhawks. There's a much different feel though this time around than in 2004. The Blackhawks are relevant in Chicago and are exciting to watch. I'm really hoping to go to the Madhouse on Madison because there's nothing like watching a hockey game live!" -- Joe Olmo, 26, Naperville, Ill.
"Truth is, I'm pumped. I've been a Hawks fan since childhood, and understand this is a business. I've been going through some serious withdrawal and can't wait to get my hockey fix. The NHL hasn't lost my interest and I'm going to come to as many games as I can get to. I'm not mad at either side and simply just want to see the skates hit the ice." -- Alex Cohen, 25, Chicago
"Obviously I (and many others) am disgusted by the actions of both the NHL and NHLPA during the lockout. However, hockey has been No. 1 since I was a young kid, so I'll be coming back, albeit begrudgingly." -- Matt Carroll, 23, Midlothian, Ill.
"I would like to think that Blackhawks ownership were not supportive of the measures taken by the league in the lockout. They have worked so hard to bring the fans access to the games and grow the support of hockey and the Blackhawks in Chicago I don't believe they'd want to lose any traction. I took the players side in the lockout and I am happy that they are back and ready play. Definitely excited to see the games. Hopefully the reign of Gary Bettman has come to an end, his apology is too little and way too late." -- Becky Vogle, 45, Woodstock, Ill.
"I think it's disgusting that the players are the ones apologizing when it's the owners who locked them out. Jonathan Toews has it right when he says he resents the owners, they all should. I do as well." -- Steve Andrejiw, 48, Alberta, Canada
"The players were always going to give a lot back and being so sensitive to the negotiations made this lockout go way, way too long. Thank goodness for hockey." -- Jim Cullinan, 45, New York City
"I can understand the hardcore fans, but what has to be remembered is that this is a business. Business isn't necessarily fair. Not that what the owners and players have done is right or should be done, but I guess they had a reason for it. One side (or both) obviously felt treated unfairly, and they had to settle that. It's just sad they had to drag the fans into it as well." -- Jamie Corvan, 15, Germany
"Of course, I am excited for hockey to return to the Madhouse. My respect for the players wasn't affected because of Bettman's irrationality." -- Bret Hildebrandt, 18, Fort Worth, Texas.
"As painful as the lockout was and how angry it made me, I do have to say that I am already planning a game to go to for my birthday. Just can't stay away! Not to mention that now will the lockout ending businesses in the area will be better off an more people will have jobs around the arenas! We can't forget that the lockout didn't just affect us fans." -- Danielle Tallman, 21, Wauconda, Ill.
"This particular lockout the league nearly lost me indefinitely, at least until Bettman was out of hockey. Call him the poster-boy for little evil executives everywhere, in my view he's bad for the game. The league succeeds in spite of his leadership. It succeeds because it's an amazingly dynamic game that captures the average sports fan the first time they see it played live. I had vowed, ‘If they lose the whole season, I'm done with hockey at least until Bettman is out of it.’ Lucky for me I'm not stuck with that decision." -- Keith Schulz, 39, Waupaca, Wis.
"I have a hard time forgetting and forgiving a needless lockout where millionaires and billionaires argue over millions. I do realize that my voice won't be heard and the only way I can show my disappointment is by not financially supporting the NHL. I have gone on a two-year spending lockout where I will not spend a dime on anything NHL. I will watch the games on TV for free because I love the game and will not punish myself by not watching a sport I enjoy, but no money will be spent." -- Ryan Bauer, 28, Park Ridge, Ill.
"I knew the CBA was up and a lockout was possible, but I never thought that after the huge successful season of the NHL they would miss out on taking the league to the next level. I followed along all fall long waiting for a breakthrough. Once we started missing games and it was real I couldn't believe it. After the first couple meetings of nothing getting close, I began to worry we might miss the 2012 part of the season. But the league wouldn't dare miss the Winter Classic, right? Wrong! Now that the season will resume I am excited to watch these players lay it all out on the line just for a chance to lift Lord Stanley's Cup." -- Joey Richards, 23, Decatur, Ill.
"The Hawks are genuine players and have a right to be upset about being locked out. They are some of the lowest paid athletes in the business and work the hardest. The real blame should have been put on (Boston Bruins owner) Jeremy Jacobs. He was the one that was asking everything from the players and giving nothing in return." -- Andrea Gutierrez, 33, Bettendorf, Iowa
"I'm exactly the kind of fan that the NHL knows it can take advantage of. As an Atlanta native, I grew up with the Thrashers. However, despite the fury of being abandoned, I inherited my father's team in Chicago. To be treated to another lockout angered me further. And yet, as soon as I heard there was a season, I began making plans to visit the Windy City for a game. Watching the Thrashers leave shows that the fans really have little recourse against the owners and though the lockouts aren't fair or at all right, I believe this sport is worth more than that." -- Matt Mireles, 23, Atlanta