"I've said it before how special hockey is in Chicago and how well I think things are run within the organization here," Toews said after yet another informal workout with teammates on Wednesday. "Things seem really clear to me. If things within the NHL were run the same way as they are here in Chicago I think you'd see quite a bit of difference."
And so even though Hawks owner Rocky Wirtz is part of the group that voted unanimously to lockout the players last month, it doesn't mean there are going to be hard feelings when the labor strife ends.
"For all Rocky has done for the Blackhawks, myself personally, and the stuff around Chicago you can't be too mad at him," Patrick Kane said. "He's an owner. It's a part of his job. We're each kind of battling from different sides, but it doesn't mean we're not going to be friends when it all gets figured out ... They have their opinion, we have ours."
It's understandable Hawks players wouldn't criticize their owner publicly even if they wanted to. He'll still be their owner when the lockout ends. But it's unfair to criticize the person who works for the owners -- Commissioner Gary Bettman -- and not point the finger at the people holding the purse strings.
"I think it's just embarrassing for everybody," Duncan Keith said. "The fans are the ones that don't have a voice. They're the ones that aren't getting heard in this negotiation. It's tough on them. It's frustrating as players. We want to play hockey. It's what we've be doing since we were young."
Keith arrived in Chicago recently, joining Toews, Kane, Patrick Sharp, Jamal Mayers, Dave Bolland and Sheldon Brookbank on the ice Wednesday. He plans on staying for awhile but like the others, at some point, he'll make a decision on playing elsewhere.
"We want a fair deal, and we're not going to play until we get that," Keith said. "It seems like we made a lot of concessions already. We made a lot of concessions last time, but there doesn't seem to be any movement on their part to recognize that."
So the beat goes on with what would have been opening night on Saturday already canceled, along with four other games.
"It's frustrating knowing the season could have been around the corner and getting on that ice in front of the Chicago fans is one of the reasons we play the game," Sharp said. "It's difficult to go through this process, but it is a process and hopefully we'll see some movement soon."
Every player who spoke to the media on Wednesday mentioned the pain the fans must be feeling. But empathy isn't going to get anything done. Negotiations will. The two sides met on Wednesday, but it's unknown if real progress was made.
"We're always optimistic," Toews said. "Every time there are talks it means we're getting somewhere. It's better than not talking."