NHL cancels Winter Classic in Michigan
Goodbye, Winter Classic.
Hello, further negotiations to salvage a season?
As expected, the NHL, which locked out players Sept. 15 and has since, in stages, canceled 326 games through the end of November, Friday scrapped the Winter Classic, which was to be played between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs outdoors at the University of Michigan's stadium in Ann Arbor on Jan. 1.
The NHL had a contract to use the "Big House" for a fee of about $3 million. An installment of $250,000 was due Friday, according to Annarbor.com. But if the league backed out by Friday, it would lose only the $100,000 payment sent in February.
"The logistical demands for staging events of this magnitude made today's decision unavoidable," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. "We are simply out of time."
Newsday and other outlets reported last week that the game could be canceled late this week.
"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," NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said 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."
It's not solely an issue of money or leverage against the players. There are extensive preparations and sponsorships to be locked in, as well as HBO's "Road to the Winter Classic.''
The game, which has been televised by NBC for the past five seasons, will be staged in Ann Arbor in 2014. Meanwhile, key negotiators for both sides have been speaking daily by phone and reportedly hope to meet face-to-face sometime this weekend or early next week.