NHL Officially Cancels 2013 Winter Classic

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistNovember 2, 2012

The NHL season has taken some heavy blows as of late, but the Winter Classic still provided a glimmer of hope for diehard hockey fans.

But not anymore.

UPDATE: Friday, Nov. 2 at 3:15 p.m. ET by Matt Fitzgerald

A statement by the NHL on the league's official website confirmed the presumed worst about the New Year's Day outdoor event:

The National Hockey League today announced the cancellation of the 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. The game was scheduled for Jan. 1 between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich. In addition, the League announced all SiriusXM Hockeytown Winter Festival events scheduled for Dec. 16-31 at Comerica Park in Detroit are cancelled.

The next NHL Winter Classic – featuring the Red Wings and Maple Leafs - and Hockeytown Winter Festival will take place at the University of Michigan and Comerica Park, respectively. Those who have purchased tickets for the 2012-13 events can either receive refunds or maintain their tickets for the future events.

The release also cites the lack of a Collective Bargaining Agreement and the logistical demands of the Winter Classic as the inevitable causes of today's decision.

--End of Update---

SportsNet reporter and NHL alumnus Nick Kypreos broke the ominous news of the cancellation on Twitter:

Sources saying sponsors r being notified the #NHL Winter classic gm' will be cancelled. An official announcement coming as early as 2pm est

— Nick Kypreos (@RealKyper) November 2, 2012


ESPNNewYork.com's Katie Strang confirmed Kypreos' report, and provided an explanation as to why one of the league's most lucrative events wasn't logistically feasible:

The league was tasked with a unique challenge this year in building two rinks -- one at "The Big House" and one at Comerica Park -- and has a contract with the former that requires the NHL to pay for any expenses occurred by the University if the event was canceled later than Nov. 2. The NHL also owed $250,000 of the $3 million rental fee on Nov. 2.

This is the biggest blow to morale yet for professional hockey as the lockout drags on. Canceling all games through November 30 was a big deal, but the Winter Classic's mystique was completely unique to the sport.

Without the outdoor affair to look forward to, a distraught fanbase has nowhere to turn. Not to mention the event was the Alamo for fans, the last line of defense against a completely canceled season. If the league office and NHL Players' Association were willing to let it fall by the wayside, nothing is untouchable at this point.

News like this shouldn't be a surprise any longer for anyone who follows hockey. This is the sport that cancelled the entire 2004-05 season, so this isn't foreign territory.

The first whispers of the news popped up on Monday, courtesy of Strang, whose report stated, "A source familiar with the league's plan told ESPNNewYork.com the league is expected to cancel the Winter Classic by Thursday."

That doesn't seem like a big deal now, but the league had three days to avoid this situation—longer than that really, if you want to look at the entire thing. Knowing that this was a grave possibility should have inspired action or compromise, but it didn't make a difference.

At this point, it feels like it's just a matter of time until the entire season is officially called off. Very little positive news has popped up since the lockout began on September 16.

Stay tuned for more information regarding the status of the NHL season.