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That’s one approach, but what can players say to disgruntled fans?

“I don’t think there’s anything we can really say. I think there’s a lot of people that are unsure or upset about this,” New York Rangers forward Jeff Halpern said. “I think the players have to go out there and put on a great product.”

It’s up to the players, Halpern said, to help bring fans back.

“It’s kind of tough. I don’t really know what exactly would be good enough,” Caps defenseman Karl Alzner said. “Some fans are going to be more hard-headed than others. That’s understandable. They deserve to be upset about all that. But it’s hard. As players all we can really do is remind why they enjoy hockey as much as they do.”

Winning is a start. Teams that start fast and look like playoff and Stanley Cup contenders should have an easier time drawing fans.

And in big-time hockey markets, most will flock back to arenas. It should happen in Washington, though it can’t be without effort.

“We have to give back, we have to find some way to re-engage. Some of them will, they’re die-hards, they’ll absolutely come back. But we have to re-engage everybody again,” Laich said. “Our fan base now, they’re actually in love with the sport. And it wasn’t just a ‘jump on a bandwagon because the Caps have won for a couple years and had a good team’ sort of thing. They’re now in love with the sport.”

General manager George McPhee was all smiles Tuesday discussing the end of the lockout and said he hoped fans are as happy as executives, coaches and players are.

“You know, we’re all hockey fans. I’ve missed hockey. You’ve missed hockey. They’ve missed it,” McPhee said. “We’re looking forward to seeing our team. We’re looking forward to seeing our fans, and they’re looking forward to seeing us.”

But forward Matt Hendricks said players also need to be respectful of fans’ feelings, which include some bitterness even among the die-hards. Players interacting with fans even more than usual is one way to bridge whatever gap the lockout created.

“You’ve just got to reach out to people and thank them and thanks for suffering along with us,” Chimera said. “And hopefully you come back and support us again.”