That light many of us saw at the end of the NHL lockout tunnel a couple of weeks ago?
It now looks like it was actually the train coming in the other direction. A season threatening bullet-train whose sole purpose it is to smash the hopes and dreams of hockey fans the world over.
In a move that surprised pretty much nobody, the NHL cancelled all games through November on Friday (ESPN).
The hopes for an 82-game season have now been completely dashed.
What is worse is that one gets the feeling that the only people who really care are the fans.
The two sides are barely talking. Never mind that though—the two sides can't even reach a simple agreement to meet again and try and negotiate some sort of resolution to this situation.
As bad as things look, it is likely to get much worse very soon. The reason for that is that the Winter Classic, the NHL's marquee event since 2008, is teetering on the brink of being canceled.
In fact, as ESPN reported earlier today, there are rumors circulating that the Winter Classic will be cancelled by Thursday.
It is somewhat ironic that the Winter Classic would be next on the chopping block. Since its debut in 2008, the Winter Classic has, arguably, been one of the biggest reasons for the increase in hockey related revenue since the last lockout.
The first event in 2008, at Ralph Wilson stadium in Orchard Park, New York, between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres, set an NHL attendance record of 71,217 fans.
In 2009, the second Winter Classic at Wrigley Field between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks had the highest television ratings in the United States since1976.
The 2011 Winter Classic at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins gave birth to the very popular HBO 24/7 documentary that covered the behind the scenes stories revolving around both teams leading up to the game.
The 2013 Winter Classic is scheduled to take place at Michigan Stadium—aka The Big House—on New Year's Day. It is supposed to pit the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Detroit Red Wings, the first time a Canadian team has played in the Winter Classic.
There is a reasonable chance that if the game is played, it could set an all-time attendance record for any hockey game, seeing as how the current record of 104,073 was set in that very same stadium, a 2010 game between the Michigan Wolverines and Michigan State Spartans.
I say it is ironic that the Winter Classic might be canceled next because, as noted above, it has been such a huge revenue producer for the NHL—and that increase in revenue is the main point of division between the NHL and NHLPA.
But, barring something really unexpected happening, the NHL will cut the head off of it's cash cow and I predict you will see this announcement come by Friday, November 2, 2012, at the absolute latest.
Here are three reasons why.