"It makes you sick to your stomach when you think about it," Coyotes goalie Mike Smith said. "You feel terrible for the people who got caught in the crossfire in all of this. As players, we didn't want to go through it, we didn't want it to drag on as long as it did. We're as big a fan as everyone else and I know there's going to disgruntled fans in all this, but hopefully we'll get back playing some hockey and hopefully lure them back to the game we all love."
The Coyotes' best remedy for post-lockout blues would be to get the shortened season off to a good start, pile up a few Ws to let the fans know they're still a good team, still fun to watch.
And Phoenix may be in better position than many teams in the league to get out of the gates quickly.
The Coyotes didn't have a whole lot of turnover during the offseason, losing Ray Whitney and Taylor Pyatt, but not much else. They also play a stay-at-home style under coach Dave Tippett, an approach that may be easier to get rolling than teams that rely on speed and lots of scoring.
More than anything, though, the Coyotes have been playing hockey.
Phoenix had five players who went overseas to play during the lockout and informal workouts at the Ice Den in Scottsdale were among the best-attended in the league. The Coyotes typically had more than a dozen of their own players on the ice and dozens more from other teams rotated through to join them, including stars like Sidney Crosby, Patrick Marleau and Ryan Miller during a weeklong minicamp of sorts in November.
And it wasn't just the ice time.
Knowing the start of the season could be just around the corner, the Coyotes and friends had highly competitive workouts that included high-energy scrimmages, drills and even sprints.
"A lot of times when you're getting ready for training camp, we have what's called summer hockey where it's getting in shape but not real competitive getting in shape," Tippett said. "If you were over there and saw some of the drills the guys were doing over there, this was far from summer hockey. They recognized when they came back it was going to be full-tilt."
The Coyotes expect to start training camp on Sunday. From there, it will be a sprint to the finish. They hope their fans will come back to go along for the ride.