NHL Winter Classic: The Financial Fallout from Canceling the 2013 Classic

Nicholas GossCorrespondent INovember 4, 2012

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman
NHL commissioner Gary BettmanRick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

When the NHL canceled the 2013 Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, it lost a fantastic opportunity to earn a ton of revenue from the most popular regular-season game on the hockey calendar.

However, the cancellation of the Winter Classic won't just affect the league from a financial standpoint, as many other people will be hurt as well.

Let's examine the financial fallout from canceling the Winter Classic.


Local Economies

Revenue from tickets, concessions and merchandise would have probably reached new heights for a Winter Classic, especially when you consider the fact that teams from two of the largest fanbases in the sport were scheduled to participate in the event.

A recent report from the CBC estimated that the cancellation of the Winter Classic could result in the Detroit economy losing over $50 million in revenue.

The University of Michigan was going to receive $3 million for letting the NHL use its football stadium to host the event, but now that the event has been canceled, the league is only responsible for $100,000 of that fee.

Many different types of businesses in the Detroit area would have also benefited greatly from the event, because Comerica Park (home of the Detroit Tigers) was going to host nine outdoor games in the week before the Winter Classic.

These games included two OHL games, an AHL game, two games featuring Red Wings and Maple Leafs alumni and the Great Lakes Invitational featuring four games between Michigan, Michigan State, Western Michigan and Michigan Tech.

All these games include teams from many different cities, which means a ton of people from all over North America would have descended upon the Detroit and Ann Arbor areas to spend money on tickets, food, hotels, travel and other things. That's millions of dollars which has now been lost because of the Winter Classic being canceled.

The best that the people of Detroit and Ann Arbor can hope for is that hockey fans make the trip to the area next year for the 2014 Winter Classic.



The Winter Classic is not only a huge event for the league and the host city's economy, but it's also a major boost to NBC and CBC's hockey coverage.

There's no question that these networks would have sold lots of air time for companies to promote their products and services via commercials during the broadcast of the Winter Classic, and now this revenue has been lost.

Losing this event will also hurt each network's ratings, because the Winter Classic is one game that fans of every NHL team watch—not just the ones who cheer for the two teams involved.

A press release from NBC earlier this year (via TVByTheNumbers) helped show how important the Winter Classic is to the network's regular season NHL coverage.

Most-watched NHL Regular-Season Games Since 1975

4.5 million Jan. 1, 2011 NBC Capitals-Penguins

4.4 million Jan. 1, 2009 NBC Red Wings-Blackhawks

3.8 million Jan. 27, 1996 FOX Six-game regional coverage

3.8 million Jan. 1, 2008 NBC Penguins-Sabres

3.74 million Jan. 2, 2012 NBC Rangers-Flyers

3.68 million Jan. 1, 2010 NBC Flyers-Bruins

Losing the Winter Classic is a huge loss for NBC and CBC's early 2013 programming lineup, and both networks have lost an opportunity to make a ton of money, especially CBC since the Leafs were going to be the first team from Canada to ever play in this event.


NHL Lockout

The cancellation of the Winter Classic will certainly affect the amount of hockey-related revenue that the NHL's players and owners will share for the 2012-13 season.

Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News shared an interesting tweet on the day that the Winter Classic was canceled.

The question for NHLPA: Now what? Huge chunk of revenue now gone. $720M already lost out of $3.3B. How much more is WC worth?

— Frank Seravalli (@DNFlyers) November 2, 2012

The Winter Classic will lower the revenue pie for the two sides this year, but losing the entire season would have a much bigger impact on the overall revenue figures for 2012-13.

Since this labor dispute is focused primarily on hockey-related revenue, the league and its players would be foolish to let this lockout continue and decrease the amount of possible revenue that could be earned this year now that the Winter Classic is gone.