DETROIT (CBS Detroit) After a NHL lockout that broke fans’ hearts and took millions out of the local economy, Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch broke his silence Friday.

Ilitch and his wife Marian posted a letter to fans on the team’s website thanking “fans of Hockeytown” for their patience. He said the frustration level of this NHL contract negotiation was  unprecedented in his 30 years as an owner, writing, “No situation is more frustrating, though, than working through the process of establishing a new collective bargaining agreement.”

“We are sorry for the delay in starting the season and the unfortunate public nature of the negotiations.  Thankfully, with this new deal, we will be assured of a settled labor environment for many years to come,” Ilitch wrote.

He thanked the fans of Hockeytown for their “incredible fan support,” adding, “And we understand the special bond that has been formed over the years: we do not take lightly our responsibility as owners.”

He signed off with “Thank you for being a part of our team.  We look forward to delivering another memorable season of Red Wings hockey.”

NHL players have until Saturday morning to vote on the new labor deal that would end the four-month lockout.

If a majority of the more than 700 players choose to accept the deal NHL owners unanimously ratified on Wednesday, training camps will open Sunday, and a 48-game regular season will begin Jan. 19.

The lockout began on Sept. 16, and forced the cancellation of 510 games, beginning with opening day on Oct. 11. The outdoor Winter Classic at the Big House in Ann Arbor and the All-Star game were also wiped out this season.

The NHL says it will release a new schedule once the ratification is complete.


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