(Eds: Updates, links AP Photo.) By DAN GELSTON AP Sports Writer Flyers owner Ed Snider had a simple message on the day the NHL lockout ended:
Welcome back, NHL.
Welcome back, NHL fans.
Lost in the squabble between the league and players over the 113-day labor dispute was how the hardcore fans were losing interest with each messy board room update from an idle sport. Keeping the faith turned into planning boycotts. The Winter Classic gave way to the winter doldrums for even the most passionate fans in hockey-mad markets.
Why care so much about a sport that had stuck its fans inside a penalty box for more than four months?
''I'm hoping that our fans understand this was something that had to be done for the strength of the league, for the strength of the Players Association,'' Snider told The Associated Press. ''I hope they don't hold it against us and just come out and see some great hockey.
''If I had to guess, I think we...