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NHL cancels Winter Classic because of labor dispute

The New Year's Day outdoor game between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs had been scheduled to be held at the University of Michigan's 'Big House.'

November 03, 2012|By Helene Elliott

The showcase Winter Classic became the latest casualty of the labor dispute between the NHL and players, canceled by the league a day before it was to make an additional payment for staging the New Year's Day outdoor game between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at the University of Michigan's "Big House."

The Hockeytown Winter Festival, featuring an array of hockey events at Detroit's Comerica Park, also was canceled Friday. The league said in a statement the next Winter Classic and Winter Festival will be held at the same sites but didn't specify when. The NHL had paid the university a nonrefundable fee of $100,000 and would have had to pay $250,000 more by Saturday.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The Times he couldn't estimate the economic impact of canceling the events, which were projected to bring 400,000 people to the Detroit-Ann Arbor area between Dec. 16 and 31.

The Winter Classic, conceived to celebrate the game's roots and attract casual fans, is among the league's most popular events.

Daly said the Winter Classic itself isn't a big revenue producer but is more important to the "overall image and brand value of the league." Last week, after the NHL extended its lockout and canceled games through Nov. 30, Daly estimated the league had lost $720 million in revenues.

Late Friday, Darren Dreger of TSN reported owners had bent on the "make whole" provision in their last proposal, perhaps ensuring players would get the full value of their contracts. Talks were expected to resume this weekend, and could turn into full negotiations next week.

The NHL said in a press release that it was "not in position to do all that is necessary to adequately stage events of this magnitude" because of the absence of a collective bargaining agreement with the players' association. Plans called for constructing two ice rinks and arranging travel and accommodations for participants and support staff.

"We simply are out of time," Daly said. "We are extremely disappointed, for our fans and for all those affected, to have to cancel the Winter Classic and Hockeytown Winter Festival events."

Donald Fehr, executive director of the NHLPA, called the cancellation "unnecessary and unfortunate, as was the owners' implementation of the lockout itself." He added, "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."

helene.elliott@latimes.com

The showcase Winter Classic became the latest casualty of the labor dispute between the NHL and players, canceled by the league a day before it was to make an additional payment for staging the New Year's Day outdoor game between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at the University of Michigan's "Big House."

The Hockeytown Winter Festival, featuring an array of hockey events at Detroit's Comerica Park, also was canceled Friday. The league said in a statement the next Winter Classic and Winter Festival will be held at the same sites but didn't specify when. The NHL had paid the university a nonrefundable fee of $100,000 and would have had to pay $250,000 more by Saturday.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The Times he couldn't estimate the economic impact of canceling the events, which were projected to bring 400,000 people to the Detroit-Ann Arbor area between Dec. 16 and 31. The Winter Classic, conceived to celebrate the game's roots and attract casual fans, is among the league's most popular events.

Daly said the Winter Classic itself isn't a big revenue producer but is more important to the "overall image and brand value of the league." Last week, after the NHL extended its lockout and canceled games through Nov. 30, Daly estimated the league had lost $720 million in revenues.

According to Daly, no labor negotiations were set as of Friday. But he said weekend conversations might lead to meetings next week.

The NHL said in a press release that it was "not in position to do all that is necessary to adequately stage events of this magnitude" because of the absence of a collective bargaining agreement with the players' association. Plans called for constructing two ice rinks and arranging travel and accommodations for participants and support staff.

"We simply are out of time," Daly said. "We are extremely disappointed, for our fans and for all those affected, to have to cancel the Winter Classic and Hockeytown Winter Festival events."

Donald Fehr, executive director of the NHLPA, called the cancellation "unnecessary and unfortunate, as was the owners' implementation of the lockout itself." He added, "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."

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen

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