CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks president and CEO John McDonough vowed Sunday the Blackhawks would do whatever they have to do to win back their fans following the NHL's four-month lockout.
"The message to our fans is very simple," McDonough said at a news conference at the United Center. "We are going to have to earn our way back. We do take any of this for granted -- their loyalty. And we have an organizational commitment to win. Our expectations here, as always, are very high, and we are totally committed to winning.
"Again to our fans, we don't take any of this for granted. It was a difficult period for all of us. But we certainly respect and understand it was particularly difficult for you. And we're going to do everything we can to earn their allegiance back."
McDonough wouldn't get into specifics, but he said the Blackhawks would reveal "fan initiatives" later in the week.
Some NHL teams have already announced their plans for fans. For example, the Dallas Stars are offering children under the age of 12 season tickets in the upper deck with the purchase of an adult ticket. The Nashville Predators are offering $10 upper deck tickets. The Pittsburgh Penguins are offering 50 percent merchandise discounts.
McDonough said he was unsure what sort of backlash the Blackhawks would receive from fans. He expects to have a better idea once the season begins.
"How much anger was there?" McDonough said. "We certainly weren't overwhelmed by it. It's difficult on our fans because of the expectations being so high. We're probably going to find out in the next few weeks, which is going to really kind of fuel what we're going to have to do to try to do everything we can to bring them back.
"As a matter of fact, during the course of the lockout, our waiting list for our season-ticket base increased by 250. I really don't know what indication that is. There's very, very strong interest in the Chicago Blackhawks in this market. But our approach as it always is, we're a very humble organization. We know who we are. We know where we stack up in the city of Chicago. For those fans who are upset, deservedly, we're going to do everything we can to win them back."
McDonough said the organization's goal remains the same.
"It's very, very important to us to make sure that we give our fan base a real purpose," McDonough said. "It's based on a commitment of consistent excellence. It's based on a commitment of doing everything we can to put a winning team on the ice, giving Stan (Bowman) resources that he needs and Joel (Quenneville) the team he needs to win. There will certainly be other things we'll be doing at some point this week to announce further fan commitment."
After opening the season with two road games, the Blackhawks will host their season opener Jan. 22 against the St. Louis Blues at the United Center.