SBD/November 5, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NHL Lockout, Day 51: NHL Cancels Winter Classic, Promises Next Event To Red Wings

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The '13 Winter Classic was canceled on Friday, and NHL officials said that the Red Wings and Maple Leafs "will play in the next Classic -- presumably Jan. 1, 2014 -- in Ann Arbor," according to Ted Kulfan of the DETROIT NEWS. Univ. of Michigan AD Dave Brandon said, "Our relationship with the NHL has been terrific. ... We are glad they are committed to bring the next game to the Big House." Red Wings D Ian White: "We've already had some damage that won't be able to be undone to our sport. (The league) just continues to pile on. It actually embarrasses me as a player. You go out in public, people view us differently from this. The NHL just continues along this path" (DETROIT NEWS, 11/4). In N.Y., Jeff Klein wrote the loss of the Classic "was a sobering note" for the NHLPA. Union officials for months had said that they "expected the league to cancel the game as a negotiating tactic." Rangers C Brad Richards: "I don't know why that needs to be canceled. You can play it in February. The stadium's not going anywhere." But NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly in several e-mail messages last week wrote that the league "had no plan or intention to 'resurrect' the game this season" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/4). ESPN.com's Strang & Custance wrote the decision to cancel the game "was based on a number of factors, and logistics were a concern." The NHL was "tasked with a unique challenge this year in building two rinks -- one at 'The Big House' and one at Comerica Park." The league "did not want to host such an event without the usual bells and whistles ... and it did not want the pageantry of the event tainted by the work stoppage" (ESPN.com, 11/2). HBO's "24/7" reality series, which in years past has followed the two teams leading up to the Winter Classic, "will not happen" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/3).

CAUSE & EFFECT: In Boston, Steve Conroy wrote this year's Winter Classic "was supposed to be the biggest one yet." One exec said, "It obviously means we won’t have those millions of dollars of revenue. But the game has also become kind of a jumping-off point for the rest of the season in the States. It’s not good" (BOSTON HERALD, 11/4). In Raleigh, Chip Alexander noted the loss of the game "could cost the league at least $10 million in gate receipts" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 11/3). The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts offered a breakdown of the events that necessitated, "at least in the league's mind, the cancellation of the NHL's marquee event." The tipping point "may have been the result of the labour negotiations or, specifically, the enormous ill will between the owners, players and fans caused by the lockout." The players were "angry about the prospect of playing" (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/3). The GLOBE & MAIL's Shoalts in a separate piece wrote by cancelling the Classic, the league and its owners "just made like Wile E. Coyote and set off a bomb in their own faces." The move "is a black eye for the league." One NHL exec said, "I don't care about the PR hit." But the exec added that the game should have been cancelled "the minute the owners came to believe the NHLPA saw the game as a bargaining carrot" (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/3). ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun wrote if there is a '12-13 season, it "has been poisoned by a labor impasse." Players are "already grumbling ... that they won’t bend over backward for league events or appearances once hockey resumes." The "bad blood that’s brewing between owners and players is far from done boiling over." The NHL and the Red Wings "don't want to host a tainted Winter Classic" (ESPN.com, 11/2).

BOUNCE-BACK POTENTIAL: ESPN.com's Scott Burnside wrote the Winter Classic "isn't broken." Burnside: "And kudos for the NHL, which agonized over this decision even as late as Friday morning, for immediately announcing" that the Red Wings would host the '14 game against the Maple Leafs. Next fall, the Winter Classic "has the power, the potential, to be a bridge between the disgrace of the lockout and what the players and owners will be hoping is a fresh start." With the NHL "wanting to make a big splash in returning from the current lockout, perhaps it will take an aggressive look at having multiple outdoor games in the U.S." (ESPN.com, 11/2).

MOTOR CITY MADHOUSE: In Detroit, John Niyo wrote, "In effect, it's just a postponement for both events." Red Wings officials "did not want to stage a rushed, cut-rate version of this major event in the immediate aftermath of an ugly labor war" (DETROIT NEWS, 11/4). Also in Detroit, Helene St. James noted the Red Wings tomorrow "plan to communicate with their original ticket purchasers by email ... allowing them to either receive a full refund on tickets and associated fees or maintain their tickets for future Winter Classic and Winter Festival events" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 11/2). In Toronto, Steve Simmons wrote it has been a "tough time" for Red Wings and Tigers Owner Mike Ilitch. Not only "did his Tigers get swept out of the World Series but he lost his festival of hockey planned around the Winter Classic" (TORONTO SUN, 11/4). 
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