When the NHL cancelled all the regular season games for the month of November, that was only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the bad news that was forthcoming from the league. The Winter Classic and the NHL All-Star game are the next major events that the league will cancel with an announcement expected this week from none other than Gary Bettman himself.
John Buccigross, an ESPN hockey enthusiast who is quite active on Twitter, first reported the news citing a league source informed him of the decision.
The Winter Classic is near and dear to the heart of Bettman, an annual showcase of the league on the New Year’s Day holiday which boosted the league’s image and popularity. The outdoor game has become intriguingly popular across North America and the result has been a financial windfall for the league, not to mention a first hand selling feature for a sport that has struggled to find an identity in non-traditional hockey markets.
The league is said to be on the clock to pay the University of Michigan a $3 million dollar deposit in order to stage the game at Michigan Stadium, a venue that would hold more than one hundred thousand fans. Hence the decision to cancel the game this week, rather than fork over a hefty cheque that could end up being flushed down the toilet.
Not only does the league lose the Classic but they will also lose the HBO hit series 24/7, an insider access to the two teams set to play in the game that takes the fans into the personal lives of their favorite players. The series itself has become a huge hit with hockey fans and even non-hockey fans and one could argue that HBO has done miracles for the NHL in building up it’s fanbase and popularity.
Bettman now faces losing all of that along with the tedious task of trying to rebuild and re-brand his league’s tarnished image and reputation. Being the third lockout in the last twenty years, the NHL may not be able to recover from the latest work stoppage as fans are growing tired of the same old issues that snatch the game we love away from us for an extended period of time.
The All-Star game which was set to be played in Columbus may not be as big a loss for the league when compared to the Winter Classic, but keep in mind that Columbus is a franchise that is reeling in every aspect of the game and hosting the all-star game could have helped revive the game of hockey in a dying market.
It’s unfortunate to see the league wiping out these two classic games, something that was great for the fans and the league as a whole. But alas, if the owners and players aren’t willing to negotiate then what other choice do they have. Once again, it’s the fans who are getting the raw end of this deal.
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