Feb. 9, 2012; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; General view of Michigan Stadium during an NHL press conference for the 2013 Winter Classic between Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

BoT Special Report: It’s Official...The 2013 Winter Classic Has Been Cancelled

Feb. 9, 2012; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; General view of Michigan Stadium during an NHL press conference for the 2013 Winter Classic between Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

The NHL as expected has cancelled the 2013 Winter Classic which was scheduled for January 1st because of the ongoing NHL Lockout. The game was to be played at the “Big House” on the campus of the University of Michigan. The Winter Classic this season would have featured two of the original six teams, with the Toronto Maple Leafs taking on the Detroit Red Wings. Had the Winter Classic been played (and had their been no lockout), the game would have drawn a world record crowd of 104,173 to see a NHL game or event live. Cancelled also are all the events centered around the Winter Classic as well.

Because of the lockout, the league was also forced to make the move which in effect was also due to the NHL’s payment plan for use of The Big House at the University of Michigan which calls for $250,000 to be paid to the school today, Nov. 2. The rest of the payment schedule was to have $1 million paid on Dec. 7 and on Dec. 28 and $650,000 on Jan. 18. The NHL by cancelling the payments forfeits the rights to use the facility, even if the lockout is resolved within the next few weeks. If the season were to resume before December, the game would be played at the Joe Louis Arena. The Red Wings and NHL now must work to refund advanced tickets which were purchased for this event.

Ray Ferraro, an NHL analyst for the TSN network, responded on TSN Radio 1050 in Toronto and did not hold back his feeling. “It Sucks” Ferraro told TSN, and pointed out that fans from all over the United States and Canada had this date circled and made hotel and plane reservations which in a number of cases are non refundable. Ferraro also mentioned that the players lose out on revenue and the NHL also loses out on large amounts of revenue that cannot be recuperated.

“The logistical demands for staging events of this magnitude made today’s decision unavoidable. We simply are out of time,” said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly in a statement. “We are extremely disappointed, for our fans and for all those affected, to have to cancel the Winter Classic and Hockeytown Winter Festival events.”*

This makes the total of games cancelled by the NHL Lockout grow to 327. The NHL has lost 27 percent (over one quarter) of it’s schedule for the 2012-13, and with no settlement on the horizon anytime soon the likelihood of a lost season grows with each passing day. With the cancellation of the Winter Classic comes yet another dent to the NHL’s shield which has grown yet weaker under the stewardship of Commissioner Gary Bettman. When the 2004-05 season was cancelled, the date in which the season was scrapped was February 16th. If a settlement to this lockout is not reached soon, the league may not wait until that date on the calendar to abandon the season.

As far as the Winter Classic goes, the NHL did state that when the league does resume, the Red Wings and Maple Leafs will be involved in the game and it will still be held in the Detroit area, whether it’s held at the University of Michigan or perhaps Comerica Park where the Detroit Tigers play in the summer. The Maples Leafs were also supposed to be featured on HBO’s “The Franchise”, which would have followed the team and events leading up to the winter classic. Ferraro told TSN Radio 1050 said this cancellation is something the NHL will soon regret. “I think they already regret it, this is gold.” Ferraro said the Winter Classic was a good way to generate a lot of interest in the sport inside the United States.

The NHL’s official statement on cancelling the Winter Classic:

“The NHL’s decision to cancel the 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic is unnecessary and unfortunate, as was the owners’ implementation of the lockout itself,” said NHL executive director Bill Daly in a statement. “The fact that the season has not started is a result of a unilateral decision by the owners; the players have always been ready to play while continuing to negotiate in good faith. We look forward to the league’s return to the bargaining table, so that the parties can find a way to end the lockout at the earliest possible date, and get the game back on the ice for the fans.”

Overall this is not good news for a league who is now in it’s fourth work stoppage in 20 years. Whenever the lockout does end, it’s clear much damage will already be done to the NHL’s reputation.

The King Shark

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