Gary Bettman opened his post-lockout press conference on Wednesday with one very clear message to fans of the NHL: We're sorry, and we need to work to regain your trust. Yes, those words came out of his mouth.
"I'm sorry," Bettman said. "I know an apology or explanation isn't enough, but I owe you an apology. I read the letters, I followed the tweets. I read the blogs. We have a lot of work to do. ... That effort begins today."
Of course, Bettman wouldn't go into detail about exactly what kind of work the league will do to regain the trust of fans. No mention of cheaper ticket prices around the league or free NHL Center Ice or sales on merchandise or anything of the sort. But he said we'll be seeing the "outreaches" and "campaigns" in the coming days. We'll wait.
Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs stepped to the microphone immediately before Bettman, announcing that the Board of Governors has voted unanimously, 30-0, to ratify the new collective bargaining agreement. It's expected that the players will ratify the deal in the coming days and that training camps will open Sunday.
More from the NHL's presser on Wednesday:
* The 2013 NHL schedule will not be released until the players ratify the deal.
* Bettman isn't concerned about threats of players staying in the KHL. He deflected a lot of questions on specifics, saying only that "The NHL represents the highest level of hockey in the world" and that "We expect that the best players in the world want to play here."
* The commissioner again talked about working with the players as "partners," which sounded extremely familiar to his tone following the 2004-05 CBA debate. Bettman cited a 10-year-long CBA deal a "stable" NHLPA under solid leadership (hi, Don Fehr!) as a reason to believe the NHL and NHLPA will continue to work as partners.
* Despite the news Wednesday that the NBA could be returning to Seattle, Bettman did not discuss the possibility that the NHL could relocate or expand to the city as well.