After much speculation and numerous conflicting media reports, the cancellation of the 2013 Winter Classic was finally made official Friday afternoon by the NHL through an announcement on its website.
This is certainly a blow not only to fans of Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs, the teams that were scheduled to face each other on New Year's Day as part of the Winter Classic festivities, but to hockey fans everywhere as well as the sport itself.
However, it is important to note that the Winter Classic represents a single regular season game.
While its cancellation carries heavy symbolic significance, in reality, the casualty list for this lockout just went from a few hundred games to a few hundred plus one.
If the NHL actually cares about its public image, it won't have to worry much about how this new development will affect it because it's already bad enough.
The fans are pissed, the players are pissed and some of the owners are pissed as well (see: Melnyk, Eugene).
How successful would this year's iteration of the Winter Classic be anyway?
The event is not only a celebration of the game of hockey, but a giant marketing ploy as well. It is supposed to show how great the game is so as to attract new fans (particularly in the United States) and how great the League is doing to attract new business partners.
This year, there has been no buildup of hype or excitement to January 1st. Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment is reportedly not too upset with the Winter Classic's cancellation precisely because the event works best with months of buzz-building beforehand.
Fans are disgruntled, with many (seriously or not) claiming to be done with the NHL.
As fun and memorable as it is to play in a Winter Classic, this time in front of what would have been a record-setting crowd of over 100,000 people, the event is all about the League and increasing its revenues.
That's not a bad thing in itself—every good business should continue to seek out new ways to maximize profits.
In a lockout year like this, however, would there be 100,000+ fans out there who would be willing to forgive, forget and fork a small fortune over to the same people that caused the lockout in the first place?
"Dear valued fans, we're sorry it came to this. Now if you'll just remortgage your house to pay for a pair of tickets and this neat swag, we'll forget this ever happened."
It's like threatening to give the other person what they want unless they give you what you want.
It would be a decidedly un-magical day for all involved: empty seats, a lack of media attention and a lack of passion from the players.
You can't manufacture excitement for this sort of thing by tossing dollars at it.
Better to let this lockout business blow over, start a fresh season and have a proper Winter Classic on January 1, 2014.
It'll still be the Wings and Leafs in Ann Arbor next time, so aside from the fact that we're all still locked out, losing this year's Winter Classic really isn't such a bad thing.