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2013 NHL Winter Classic Cancelled



Alex Silverberg
11/4/2012

On Friday, November 2nd the NHL announced the cancellation of the 2013 Winter Classic. The event, which takes place annually on January 1st, was to feature the Toronto Maples Leafs against the Detroit Red Wings at The Big House at the University of Michigan. Although the NHL and NHLPA met for several hours on Saturday, the cancellation of this premier event suggests that the chances of professional American hockey returning this year are slimmer than ever.

The league took a big risk introducing the Winter Classic to the U.S. television market back in 2008. The NHL was growing slowly but surely from the ashes of the 2004 lockout and scheduled a game with all the fanfare associated with bringing a storied game back to its outdoor roots. NBC averaged 4.1 million viewers for all five Winter Classics, with four of the matches ranking in the top five most watched NHL games since 1975. After five years of success, when people think New Year’s Day, they think hockey. But now, when they think hockey, they think lockout.

The NHL, when imposing the lockout, viewed the Winter Classic as an important date in the labor negotiations. They figured that they would put their best offer forward before New Year’s Day in order to ensure the event went off smoothly. This would enable them to retain big advertisers and launch their biggest marketing campaign of the season. The problem is that the NHL’s “best” proposal wasn’t good enough for NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr. In the tender, the league proposed a 50-50 revenue split, which was an improvement over previous NHL offers that demanded the players forfeit even more money from the existing 57-43 division. However, the two sides are still in disagreement on a number of key issues, including the honoring of current player contracts in the new CBA.

As a rabid fanatic of the game, each and every one of these days without hockey has been harder and harder. Scorned as I may be, I know the minute they drop the puck, I’ll be watching. I can’t say the same for the more casual fan. With no Winter Classic on the table, it is hopefully becoming very clear to both sides that any season and all associated revenue will be lost if they do not agree to a deal within the coming weeks.

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