NHL cancels the Jan. 1 Winter Classic
The Winter Classic is the latest casualty of the NHL lockout as the league on Friday canceled the Jan. 1 game between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs at the massive University of Michigan football stadium. The league was hoping the matchup would set a record for attendance at a hockey game, surpassing the 104,173 that watched Michigan play Michigan state in December 2010 in the same stadium.
"I don't know why that needs to be canceled. It's another threat," Rangers center and former Lightning Brad Richards said after a skate at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon. "I mean you can play the Winter Classic in February, the stadium's not going anywhere. There's no football in February."
But NHL commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement:"The logistical demands for staging events of this magnitude made today's decision unavoidable. We simply are out of time. We are extremely disappointed, for our fans and for all those affected, to have to cancel the Winter Classic and Hockeytown Winter Festival events."
Players' Association executive director Don Fehr responded “The NHL’s decision to cancel the 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic is unnecessary and unfortunate, as was the owners’ implementation of the lockout itself. The fact that the season has not started is a result of a unilateral decision by the owners; the players have always been ready to play while continuing to negotiate in good faith. We look forward to the league's return to the bargaining table, so that the parties can find a way to end the lockout at the earliest possible date, and get the game back on the ice for the fans.”
The league announced the Red Wings and Maple Leafs will play in the next Winter Classic (though it doesn't say when that will be) and that fans with tickets to the just-canceled game can either get a refund or keep their tickets. The announcement did not mention the $250,000 that was due the University of Michigan from the league if the game was not canceled by Friday.
"It's too bad," Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier said. "The Winter Classic is a great event for the fans and a big part of the season. It's a huge event and it's huge revenue for the league and players, so it's disappointing what they're doing."
"It's, obviously, something none of us wants to see happen, but it's something we have no control over," said Tampa Bay right wing B.J. Crombeen, a member of the union's negotiating committee. "Like I've said numerous times, and it's been repeated numerous times in the media: we've been sitting in New York, we're telling them, 'We're in New York, we're in Toronto, tell us when and where and we'll be there (to negotiate).' We're ready to meet but we're not really getting much traction out of it."