The NHL has already cancelled the first two months of the regular season (a total of 326 games) and, according to reports, could be on the verge of eliminating the 2013 Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, Mich. The game is scheduled to take place on New Year's Day and feature the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. It has become the signature event of the NHL's regular season and brings in a ton of money for the league and the city that hosts it.
The fact it's now hanging by a thread for this year has some concerned that its cancellation would be a sign that no games will be played in 2012-13.
“If he's [commissioner Gary Bettman] willing to cancel that, I don't know why he'd want to play a season after that, because that's the highlight of the year,” White told Bob Duff of the Windsor Star on Tuesday. “So if he's willing to throw away that game, then the balance of the season, I would think, is definitely on the line. So it's terrible if that's what's going through his mind.”
The NHL needs to commit money to the University of Michigan and game sponsors in November and will obviously not want to do so if it isn't guaranteed the game will be played. Since the lockout is guaranteed to roll on through at least November, the game going off as planned is far from a guarantee.
But would it really doom the full season?
For as much money as the Winter Classic brings in, the remainder of the regular season, even a shortened one, brings in quite a bit of cash as well. So both sides still have plenty to lose if they can't figure out a way to split their billions of dollars in hockey related revenue in time to salvage the '12-13 season. Or what's left of it.
It would be an embarrassing PR blow (but that's nothing new to the NHL at this point) and a huge disappointment, but it probably shouldn't be viewed as a crippling blow to saving the season.