With the cancellation of all games in the month of November, hockey fans are now staring straight at the thing they hoped they would never have to consider.
It seems that what was shaping up to be a CBA negotiation that might take weeks, now, once again, has the NHL staring straight down the barrel of a cancelled season.
It isn't the announcement of the canceling of all November games that leads me to this worry, it's the fact that The Winter Classic seems to be next.
Shortly after the news erupted that the slate of November games was going to be axed, ESPN's Jon Buccigross tweeted that his sources have told him the NHL will be canceling The Winter Classic next.
The Winter Classic seemed to be the one rallying point that people had as hope that there would be a season. I mean, the players and the league couldn't possibly let this game go, right?
After all, what is the big thing that both parties are fighting about here? Hockey-related revenue.
Of all of the season's games, The Winter Classic is clearly the biggest producer of hockey-related revenue throughout the calendar year.
According to The New York Times, the NHL received $200 million in television rights for The Winter Classic all by itself.
Then think about the venue. These outdoor venues, often football or baseball stadiums, have a much larger capacity than any of the NHL arenas.
If the NHL cancels The Winter Classic, will the rest of the season follow?
That means butts in so many more seats at inflated prices had to be making the league's eyes turn into gigantic, green dollar signs.
Don't forget, if you go to a game you're probably going to be doing some eating. That many mouths to feed will also bring in a pretty penny.
Then there's all the advertisements. This is one of the few hockey games a year that people can pretty much guarantee the entire hockey world will be watching.
This means there's some prime air time to fill during this game from advertisers that might not otherwise be knocking on the league's door, and both the NHL and the stations broadcasting the game know that.
Commercials, ads on the boards, in the souvenir game program or even on the side of the Zamboni. All of these prices are going to be jacked up significantly for what is essentially a Super Bowl for the NHL in January.
Also, of course, we can't forget the special jerseys that are made for each of the teams for this day and for this day alone.
Those jerseys are a huge selling point for the NHL as the fans of each of the two teams have to get them and many of the nearly 110,000 people attending the game will want them. Not to mention the fans of the game that might be just ordering the jerseys of the teams involved even though they have no personal or emotional attachment to either team.
Each facet of this game that was just mentioned produces the league millions upon millions of dollars in hockey-related revenue.
Since the NHL and the NHLPA have made it pretty clear to the fans that the only thing that matters in this ridiculous standoff is dollars and cents, hockey fans should be incredibly worried about The Winter Classic being cancelled.
One of the big numbers that has been thrown around a lot during this lockout is how the NHL has grown to a $3.3 billion industry, and a very large reason for that is The Winter Classic.
If the NHL and the players are okay with letting the biggest day of the year for revenue go by the wayside, then what interest would there be in any other of those normal regular-season games?
One would think that maintaining the tradition of awarding The Stanley Cup might be enough, but that's only for those people who are worried about silly things like the purity of the game and its other traditions.
You can call me a pessimist if you want, but the actions of both sides are clear at this point. Both parties want to prove a point to the other, and if hundreds and millions of dollars isn't a big enough reason for the two sides get their act together and get a deal done, then I don't know what is.
As I type these words I hope to everything out there that I am proven wrong, but If the NHL goes out and cancels The Winter Classic, forget about having any other part of this season.