The 2012-2013 NHL season is officially on life support.
That's because, after the league announced the cancellation of the 2013 Winter Classic (per NHL.com), it's becoming abundantly clear that neither side is optimistic about the prospects of the work stoppage ending anytime soon.
And for good reason.
The loss of one of the NHL's marquee events is a big blow to the sport as a whole, especially given how highly-anticipated this year's edition of the Classic was, with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings—two of the league's most storied franchises—set to clash at America's biggest venue.
Now, the NHLPA and the league will scramble to save as much of the season as possible, but considering that the league was unwilling to pay the reported $250,000 that was due to the University of Michigan today (via TSN.ca), the chances of that happening appear increasingly bleak.
If the league and its players thought there was a reasonable chance that a new collective bargaining agreement could be hammered out, the NHL probably wouldn't have balked at paying the quarter-million it owed today. And it would have held off on cancelling the event until the next payment was due on December 7th.
Unfortunately, that's not the case, and the league decided that, with little progress being made in recent weeks, it wasn't worth the risk.
And those suggesting that the cancellation of the Classic will spur future negotiations will be disappointed. Today, TSN released a report stating the following:
Bill Daly told The Canadian Press that the league and NHL Players' Association are still working through logistics. Daly and NHLPA general counsel Steve Fehr added to TSN that while both sides have tentatively agreed on resuming bargaining, they've yet to agree on the meeting format, location and date.
The lack of concrete dates and times for future negotiations is not encouraging; nor is the fact that neither side appears surprised about the loss of the Winter Classic.
Unless there's significant progress made between now and December 1st, it seems unlikely that the puck will ever drop on the 2012-13 NHL season. And today's announcement only makes that possibility look more and more like a certainty, no matter how painful that realization may be.