ST. LOUIS (HockeyStL) -- Hockey is officially back.
The St. Louis Blues kicked off their six-day training camp Sunday in front of an estimated 5,500 fans at the Scottrade Center. It also marked the first time since April the team played inside the “house Brett Hull built.”
Some of the players weren’t sure how the reception would be when they took the ice, but as players slowly trickled on it was clear that the fans were excited to see Blues hockey.
“It was good seeing everybody,” Alex Steen said. “It was a good atmosphere for a practice.”
“It was pretty awesome for us. You never know how people are going to react coming out of this,” Jamie Langenbrunner said. “We were pretty sure our fans were going to be there for us and they showed today how supportive they are.”
Langenbrunner added the attendance was a “pleasant surprise” and that the team didn’t assume the fans would be there after the lockout.
It shocked Ken Hitchcock, to say the least. He told reporters after the two-hour practice that he assumed there was construction somewhere in the building because of the noise prior to the 11 a.m. start. That noise was actually coming from cheering fans as players began to skate 15 minutes prior to practice.
“This is the hardcore group. The support here in town in unbelievable,” Ken Hitchcock said. “The next challenge is where the casual people gone and we got to find a way to get them back. That’s totally in our hands.”
So how do they plan to win the fans back?
“I just feel confident that if we play good hockey we’re going to pack the building. I think that’s totally up to us,” Hitchcock added.
The addition of Vladimir Tarasenko may help too. The team store sold out of the young star’s jersey shirt on Sunday. The store was filled with fans flocking to purchase merchandise at 20% off retail. At one point, the line at each register stretched outside the store and through the concourse.
Blues hockey is back.