Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - As if the first 326 canceled regular-
season games weren't enough, the NHL's showcase event -- the Winter Classic --
is now on the chopping block.
For many, the annual outdoor game was going to be the event that had the cache
to help salvage the NHL's 2012-13 season.
After all, the Classic is worth millions of dollars in revenue to the NHL
every year and this season's proposed showdown between the Detroit Red Wings
and Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor had the potential to
be the biggest of them all.
However, like just about everything in NHL these days, the loss of the Winter
Classic is all about dollars and cents.
According to various reports, even though the league has only canceled
regular-season games through Nov. 30, the Winter Classic, which is scheduled
for Jan. 1 as usual, has to be nixed this week in order to save the NHL a few
The league agreed to pay the University of Michigan $3 million in rent for use
of the Big House and its 100,000-plus seats, but the NHL can recoup all but
$100,000 of that if it cancels the game before Nov. 2. Reports suggest that,
barring a miracle, the official announcement of the event's cancellation will
come down either late Thursday or on Friday.
Since no formal labor talks have taken place since the last round of rejected
proposals a few weeks ago, there seems to be no way to save the New Year's Day
Unfortunately, if the owners and players are willing to continue their staring
contest at the expense of the cash cow that is the Winter Classic than it
doesn't leave one hopeful concerning the prospect of salvaging the season from
the scrap heap.
With the lack of news on the labor negotiation front, it's hard not to be
cynical about the chances a 2012-13 season happening. If millions of revenue
dollars ($720 million by some estimates) flying out the door due to canceled
games isn't enough to spring the owners or players into action, could we
believe anything is powerful enough to move the dial?
These warring factions have become entrenched in their beliefs about what the
next collective bargaining agreement should look like and neither side has
given the slightest indication that they're about to budge.
The lack of communication between these two sides has left what few optimists
remain to look for hope in telephone conversations between Steve Fehr --
brother of Donald and special counsel to the NHLPA -- and NHL deputy
commissioner Bill Daly.
The reality is two whole weeks have passed since the last formal labor
meeting. Those talks, which were anything but fruitful, count as the recent
high-water mark in these so-called negotiations. That fact is sad, but true.
Who knows? Maybe there will be a season without the Winter Classic and the
league will simply relaunch the event at the Big House on Jan. 1, 2014, but
the stench of missing out on the outdoor game this year will linger.
The Winter Classic is supposed to represent the best of hockey. It effectively
strips the game to its basic elements and returns it to a time when the sport
was far from becoming a multi-billion dollar industry.
To lose the Classic because two sides can't decide the best way to share $3
billion is unconscionable and simply unfair to those who love this sport. For
the owners and players, however, it's just another pawn in their game.
The Sports Network