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Winter Classic Cancelled, But Meetings Resume

It finally happened.  The biggest day on the hockey calendar was officially scrapped last Friday afternoon, to the dismay of both American and Canadian hockey fans.  The game was supposed to be played on New Year’s Day at Michigan Stadium (The Big House) on the campus of the University of Michigan.  115,000 fans were expected to be in attendance, which would break the world record for most people at a hockey game.  Currently the record is held by Veltins-Arena in Gelsenkirchen, Germany (77,803) from the 2010 IIHF World Championship.  But what many fans were most anticipating was the Alumni Showdown, 2 games that would showcase the best players (still healthy) that have played for both Toronto and Detroit through the years.  Comerica Park (home of the Tigers) was set to build a rink between the outfield and the infield that would showcase an AHL game, 2 OHL games and the Great Lakes Invitational.  The Grand Rapids Griffins will still take on the Toronto Marlies, but instead, the game will take place in Grand Rapids at Van Andel Arena.

We interrupt this event to bring you the following dire announcement.
(Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images

This cancellation occurred because the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association have yet to come to an agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.  Recently the NHL had submitted a new proposal to the NHLPA, one that would not honor contracts in full and require the NHLPA to immediately give up 7% of their annual revenue (about $237 million).  The players responded with 3 counter-proposals.  After taking about 15 minutes to look it over (unprofessionally), the league promptly rejected all 3.  The NHL simply is not budging, and the season is still at a standstill.

Elliotte Friedman reported that he believes that about 10 owners are fueling this lockout, while the others want to play.  The owners of Anaheim, Columbus, Florida, New York Islanders, Phoenix (NHL owns them), St. Louis, Washington, and Dallas appear to be at fault.  Essentially these teams are either last place teams or teams with one or two surprisingly good seasons.  What does Columbus lose from losing a full season? Not much considering the Blue Jackets rarely sell out a game (except for the 2013 All-Star Game, oh wait they’ll lose that).  Basically they are trying to break the union and take as much money from the players as they can.  What about Mike Ilitch, Mario Lemieux, James Dolan? Etc…They want to play.

What does this do for the Winter Classic in Michigan?  It just pushes the game back to January 1st, 2014.  No big deal right?  The game was only supposed to bring in millions for a city that has been economically struggling for quite some time.  The results of this labor stoppage are devastating to Detroit.  With the Detroit Pistons starting the season 0-3, the Detroit Tigers getting swept in the World Series, and the Detroit Lions playing mediocre football of late, this city needs hockey.

All seems to be bleak…until Saturday at least.  Steve Fehr (special counsel) and Bill Daly (deputy commissioner) met on Saturday from afternoon to early on Sunday.  Talks will continue to take place tomorrow.  The Hockey News reports that Daly said: “We…covered a lot of ground [today].”  Fehr was quoted as saying: “Hopefully we can continue the dialogue, expand the group, and make steady progress.”  This is encouraging news after a week of discouraging announcements.

There is definitely still hope that the season can start in December or possibly the beginning of January.  I’m confident that they will work out a deal sooner than later.  Don’t give up yet fans!

Follow me on Twitter @yungspork

Kevin Sporka

Kevin Sporka

Kevin Sporka is the Senior Media Analyst and Detroit Red Wings beat writer at HOHM. He is also the author of the Fantasy Hockey Fridays, In Retrospect, Milestone Monday, and Legends By the Number segments.
Kevin Sporka

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