(CBS) — After a lockout that lasted more than 100 days, NHL hockey returns Saturday when the Blackhawks take the ice against the Stanley Cup champions, the Los Angeles Kings.
Has the game been damaged, will the fans be forgiving, and what are the prospects for the Blackhawks in a shortened season?
CBS 2’s Rob Johnson talks with Blackhawks boss Rocky Wirtz.
“It was like the weight of the world was off your shoulders,” he says of the end of the lockout.
In the City of Big Shoulders, none may be quite as broad as those of Wirtz when it comes to the expectations placed on his team.
“My mindset is we want to win every year. We know we can’t win every year, but if we settle for anything less we’re not doing what the fans are rightfully so demanding of us,” he says.
His greatest regret from the lockout: “The unfortunate thing was we couldn’t talk to our fans, we couldn’t apologize to them because of the gag order, so your fans are your customers and when you can’t talk to your customers you usually have a really big problem.”
“The walls outside Wirtz’s office are filled with family hockey memories from his grandfather Arthur to his father, Bill, and now the ones rocky is creating — from the Winter Classic in 2009 , to the 2010 Stanley Cup championship, and who knows what else?
Wirtz believes with a shorter season a quick start is important, and so, too, is staying healthy to avoid injuries or a flu bug sweeping through the locker room.
“Thank you for being with us, thank you for staying with us, and be prepared for an exciting year,” Wirtz tells fans.