Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
The setup for the 2012 NHL Winter Classic.
The Winter Classic is the wild card. When the owners locked out the 2004-05 season, they didn’t have the gold mine that is the Winter Classic.
From the HBO 24/7 special to the television rights to the ticket sales, the Winter Classic has quickly become the biggest event of the NHL’s calendar year.
The NHL is set to break records this year, too. The current attendance record for a hockey game is the Big Chill game that pitted rivals Michigan and Michigan State against one another. This season’s Winter Classic game between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs is scheduled to take place in the same stadium.
For the owners, it’s all about money. It always is. The Winter Classic is too big a payday for the owners to pass up.
Also take into account the fact that two of hockey’s biggest franchises, the Red Wings and the Maple Leafs, are this season’s competitors. While they’re only two teams, they still have a good deal of leverage in the labor disputes.
The Winter Classic may be a game changer for the lockout. It’s hard to imagine that the owners will let Bettman and his lockout cancel the season’s biggest game.
Give it a few months and we’ll see.
Michael Prunka is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist and Sports Writing Intern. To stay up to date with his WWE and NHL commentary, you can like his Facebook page, follow him on Twitter and follow him on Tout.