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NHL Commissioner Bettman to Fans: 'I'm Sorry'

National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman speaking at a press conference announcing the start of the NHL season.
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National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman speaking at a press conference announcing the start of the NHL season.

During the recently ended NHL lockout, more than a billion in revenue was lost.

More than 600 games were canceled.

Thousands of workers in and around the game lost wages, and millions of fans were deprived of a sport they love with a passion.

NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman, had one thing to say Wednesday as he announced the NHL Board of Governors unanimously approved a new labor agreement.

"I am sorry."

It sounded as sincere as it reads. (Read More: 'Hockey Cliff' Averted, Lockout Ends )

Now, only time will tell if his contrition translates into something that can be done to make fans feel at least a little bit respected. (Read More: Drop the Puck: NHL, Players Settle Labor Dispute)

"I know this won't erase hard feelings, but I owe you an apology," said Bettman.

After 113 days of no hockey, damage has been done to the game.

"I've read all the blogs and tweets and understand the fans' frustration," Bettman noted.

The players know it too.

"It has to be our mission-to get people to come watch us," said Rangers star goalie Henrik Lundqvist. "But I understand that people are upset about this."

He said, the game itself will win fans back because the season will be a furious 48-game sprint to the playoffs. (Read More: NHL Season Close to Falling Off 'Hockey Cliff' )

"And I still think hockey is the best live sport," he said. "When you go there, and if you haven't experienced a playoff game at MSG (Madison Square Garden), come and watch the game.

"I think it's an unbelievable atmosphere and excitement."

Time will tell if the lockout was worth it, but one thing that all involved know now: Time to play, watch — and pay for —hockey.

"We just need to look forward now," Lundqvist added. "Our careers are really short, and to lose a year out of our careers, I mean, it's tough.

"You don't get it back."

—By CNBC's Brian Shactman; Follow him on Twitter: @bshactman