The event that was supposed to generate the biggest crowd ever to watch an NHL game in person has been wiped from the calendar.
The Winter Classic, scheduled for Jan. 1 at Michigan Stadium between original six clubs the Red Wings and Maple Leafs, will not happen, the latest casualty in the ugly labor battle between the NHL and its players association.
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Instead, the league plans to hold that game, and the numerous events surrounding it, next year. For now, though, there is no silver lining as fans prepare for the possible cancellation of the entire 2012-13 campaign.
The logistical demands for staging events of this magnitude made todays decision unavoidable. We simply are out of time, said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly in a statement. We are extremely disappointed, for our fans and for all those affected, to have to cancel the Winter Classic and Hockeytown Winter Festival events.
NHLPA head Donald Fehr replied with a tired statement of his own.
The NHLs decision to cancel the 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic is unnecessary and unfortunate, as was the owners implementation of the lockout itself, Fehr said. 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.
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This years Winter Classic was expected to bring 110,000 fans to the game itself, and thousands countless more to the Hockeytown Winter Festival, which included another rink at Comerica Park. The game itself has become the leagues marquee regular season event, taking the place of the All-Star Game as the symbolic kick-off to the second half of the season.
Instead, players and owners remain locked in a labor war which could result in the second cancelled season in eight years. The two sides are expected to get back to the bargaining table in the near future in order to try and salvage a shortened season, although nothing has been formally scheduled.
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The league has already cancelled all games through the month of November, with Decembers schedule next up on the chopping block.