According to several reports, the Winter Classic showpiece event for the NHL could be cancelled by the end of this week if there isnt a deal in place between the league and the NHLPA.
The NHL cancelled the regular season schedule through Nov. 30 at the end of last week, and it would appear that the Jan. 1 game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan could be next on the list. There is clause in the contract between the NHL and the University of Michigan that a cancellation of the Winter Classic will cost the NHL only their 100,000 deposit up until the end of this week.
If a cancellation comes Nov. 3 or after, the work stoppage clause is voided and the league would also have to reimburse the university for any out-of-pocket expenses reasonably occurred in connection with the outdoor game. Interestingly enough there is also a work stoppage clause in the contract allowing the NHL to push back to the date of the Winter Classic in Michigan if labor issues make it impossible to play on New Years Day.
The outdoor game would surely lose some of its punch if it werent held on Jan. 1, but theres also not a great deal lost for the players if the Winter Classic gets cancelled. Its essentially one of 82 games on the schedule for the members of the NHLPA while the league was expected to haul in a boatload of cash around the game and events held at the 104,000 plus seat football stadium home of the Michigan Wolverines.
Even under better lockout circumstances, it was expected the Winter Classic would have been cancelled by Nov. 15 given the advertising, planning and merchandising needs to prepare for the outdoor event.
This years Winter Classic was expected to be the biggest revenue-generator in the six-year history of the game given the capacity size and scope of the game involving a Canadian NHL team for the first time.
It takes a lot of time and it takes the commitment of a lot of money in order to put on the Winter Classic, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said earlier this month to a group of reporters. My understanding is at some point in the not-too-distant future we will have to commit many millions of dollars if were going to play the Winter Classic on Jan. 1. Obviously under these circumstances and all the uncertainty, were not going to commit the many millions of dollars if we dont think were going to have a deal.
And so the Winter Classic time frame, in terms of making that decision, is probably rapidly approaching.
There is some confusion about the reports released concerning the Winter Classic, however, as there was also a report floated last week that the Winter Classic and All-Star game were to be cancelled today. But that obviously hasnt happened yet and now the end of the week is seen as D-Day to the NHLs showpiece hockey event.