The 2013 Winter Classic between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings became the first major casualty of the NHL lockout on Friday, as the league reportedly cancelled its marquee regular season event, according to Katie Strang and Craig Custance of ESPN.com.
UPDATE: Friday, November 2 at 3:25 p.m. ET by Nicholas Goss
The league has officially announced the cancellation of the 2013 Winter Classic. The league also explained its future plans:
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 league's press release also explained why the Winter Classic was canceled:
"The logistical demands for staging events of this magnitude made today's decision unavoidable. We simply are out of time," said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. "We are extremely disappointed, for our fans and for all those affected, to have to cancel the Winter Classic and Hockeytown Winter Festival events."
"We look forward to bringing the next Winter Classic and the Hockeytown Winter Festival to Michigan," Daly added.
This is a sad day for hockey fans everywhere, especially the ones in the Detroit area.
It will be interesting to see how many fans keep their tickets for the next Winter Classic because many people will probably give serious consideration to taking a refund. To be honest, the NHL doesn't deserve their money right now.
It's good that the Red Wings and Leafs will still get to play in the next Winter Classic, but this also means that franchises such as the Minnesota Wild and Washington Capitals (two likely hosts of the WC in the near future) will have to wait even longer before having a chance to host this event.
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This year's game was scheduled to be played on January 1 in "The Big House" at the University of Michigan.
Thursday's announcement extends beyond the Winter Classic. The 2012 Hockeytown Winter Festival has also been cancelled.
Here are the notable events from the festival that have been lost:
- Two alumni games between former Leafs and Red Wings players at Comerica Park
- Great Lakes Invitational (4 NCAA games featuring Michigan, Michigan State, Western Michigan and Michigan Tech)
- 2 OHL games (Windsdor Spitfires vs. Saginaw Spirit and Plymouth Whalers vs. London Knights)
- AHL game (Grand Rapid Griffins vs. Toronto Marlies)
With no CBA in place for the future and no meetings scheduled between the league and the NHLPA to work out a new agreement, the NHL had to make a decision on the fate of this year's Winter Classic as the preparation, planning and promotion for this game had to begin soon.
If the league doesn't think it will have enough time to set up two stadiums for several outdoor games, then the correct decision has been made.
HBO also needs time to prepare for its amazing 24/7 series, which follows the teams that will participate in the Winter Classic during the weeks leading up to the event.
It would be unfair to everyone involved in the Winter Classic to rush the event and not put in the time and effort needed to make it as amazing as possible.