Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
On Friday, November 2, the NHL announced the cancellation of the 2013 NHL Winter Classic.
The Winter Classic is the league's premiere regular-season event and has been wildly successful since its inception in 2008. Earlier this year, 3.74 million viewers watched the 2012 NHL Winter Classic between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park. That game joined the previous Winter Classics to rank as five of the six most-watched regular-season games in the NHL over the last 37 years.
But the 2013 edition of the Winter Classic had the potential to be even bigger. It was to be played between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs, two Original Six teams.
Only one of the five previous Winter Classics featured two Original Six teams: the 2009 Winter Classic between the Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks at Wrigley Field. That game drew 4.4 million viewers, good for second-best among the Winter Classics.
Plus, the 2013 edition was to be held at Michigan Stadium on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. This mammoth stadium holds nearly 110,000, making it the largest venue used for any Winter Classic by almost 40,000 seats.
But most importantly, this would have been the first Winter Classic with the inclusion of a Canadian-based team. Although there are only seven such teams left in the NHL, their success is vitally important to the league. Including a Canadian-based team in the league's signature event would significantly increase the exposure of an already popular regular-season game.
With all this at stake, the significance of the Winter Classic's cancellation was not lost on the fans—if the NHL is willing to sacrifice its cash cow, then it is now willing to sacrifice anything just to get its way.