- Scott Powers, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said Wednesday he believes NHL players resent the league's owners after their tumultuous six-plus months of negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement.
"There's definitely some resentment just from the fact there wasn't a whole lot of trust; there wasn't a whole lot of give and take these past couple of months," Toews said after working out with teammates at Johnny's IceHouse West. "Now we don't really want to talk about that type of thing too much.
"I think the thing we can learn from it is that both sides need to have that mutual understanding, that mutual respect where they need to work hard together for the fans and for the good of the game. Not just arguing over who makes more money and who takes this and who takes that.
"There's some things we can take away from that. It's frustrating that not everything is as simple as it should be. But hopefully this is something for now it kind of has hurt our game a little bit, but in the long run and decades from now is going to make it one of the best leagues in the world. We know it's the best sport. Hopefully in the long run, it's going to help everybody."
The two sides tentatively agreed to a deal on Sunday. The NHL's board of governors approved the deal on Wednesday and the players are expected to vote on it later this week which would end a lockout that has lasted almost four months.
Toews expressed a relief in being able to get back to work, but he was also torn because he believes the lockout wasn't necessary and it damaged the NHL.
"There's two sides of it," Toews said. "There's the excitement around the fact we haven't played hockey in so long. We're excited to get back in front of our fans. Not only that, but just to be together on a daily basis.
"But the realistic thing that kind of sets in, did it really have to go this far? Did we really have to miss over three months? It's an unfortunate thing. We know we got a long road ahead of us to try and build this thing back and earn the respect back from the fans again."
Initially, Toews didn't expect the lockout to last this long. But when it dragged on until late December, he believed the season would be cancelled.
"To be honest with you, I didn't think it would make it into October," Toews said. "And after that, I didn't think the lockout would last until November, then December. It just kept going. Once it got past Christmas time, I was like, 'You know what? I really thought they had so much motivation to do whatever the heck they wanted to they might actually cancel the season.'
"For a little while there, there was despair. Lack of optimism I guess is the word that everyone has been using for so long. But it's over now, and I don't want to think about it too much. Try to take some positives from it and just excited about what we've been doing. That's play hockey and put on a show for our fans."
Toews said the players have a responsibility to win back the fans.
"I think in a normal situation you should take the time to talk to your fans, signing autographs on a daily basis," Toews said. "But I think that's probably something that's is going to reach a new level, just interacting with our fans, signing autographs, that type of thing.
"I think people in Chicago know the Hawks are real good at that. We appreciate everything the fans have given us and this city. To play here, everyone in this league knows is an honor and a privilege. We definitely appreciate that, but there's still another level to take it to show that appreciation."
15dScott Burnside and Craig Custance