Capitals forward Brooks Laich strolled into Kettler Iceplex on Thursday and greeted faces both old and new for the first time this season. But that he was doing so in January and not September remains a point of contention with Laich after a 113-day lockout kept the NHL out of action.

“I’m honestly really embarrassed by the lockout, like personally embarrassed,” Laich said. “I feel terrible about it. I feel like we just punched our sport in the face. And I feel bad for everybody that was affected by it directly or indirectly.”

Laich is nursing an apparent groin injury and kept his time on the ice limited on Thursday morning, skating early by himself and leaving around 20 minutes after his other teammates arrived. He brushed off questions about his health afterwards and the injury that first arose in November while he played in Switzerland for the Kloten Flyers.

But he was willing to chat about the lockout and the damage done to the sport in its wake. The hope is fans will forgive and return to the rink to watch the Caps this season. But Laich acknowledges that will take some time and effort from players and owners alike.

“You go down the line, it has a ripple effect to everybody. I really hope that we can get them back in the building and get them re-energized,” Laich said. “Even during the lockout, players were engaged with charity games, with doing what they can to help the fans. And we hope that we’ll make ourselves accessible, we’ll do whatever to get them back. But I hope they haven’t lost the interest and lost the excitement for how fun the game really is and how exciting the game is. How much fun it is to come to the Verizon Center and how loud that building gets. We want to get that feeling that when it’s a game day, they wake up and they got to go to work or whatever, but they’re waking up saying, ‘It’s a game tonight, I can’t wait to go,’ same as a player. The easiest way to do it is get back in the building as soon as we can and get playing. But our heart goes out to them, I hope they come.”

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