The league has officially cancelled the highly anticipated NHL Winter Classic between the Red Wings and the Maple Leafs as the lockout continues.
The NHL has been expected to call off the event all week, but only cancelled today for two reasons. The obvious one being that there have been no formal talks since the bitter departure from the meetings last week. The other reason is that the second installment of the payment plan for the venue, The Big House, was due today.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly released a statement Friday afternoon.
“The logistical demands for staging events of this magnitude made today’s decision unavoidable. We simply are out of time,” said 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.”
The “out of time” is in reference to the second payment being due for the use of the venue. That deadline for $250,000 was literally up today. Was the deadline really up for hosting the event that is still two months away? Fans would likely disagree. Neither reason for cancelling would please any hockey fan. The “out of time” for the payment is somewhat hypocritical considering the league has locked out the season, costing everyone millions and the fans the lack of hockey.
This is the league’s way of saying that they are for real in their stand-still. From the owners perspective, they’ve watched players, one-by-one, sign oversees and play abroad. The owners could only respond by turning down NHLPA proposals. As if the shutdown of the triple proposal last week wasn’t a statement enough, the cancellation of the traditional event should hit home for the players.
As expected, the NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr responded with a very different tone.
“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,” said Fehr. “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.”
It was confirmed last night that Bill Daly and Donald Fehr had agreed for both sides to resume talks in the near future, but no dates have been set.
TSN Insider Darren Dreger also tweeted last night that the NHL was to talk to the NHLPA on the phone and that the players were hoping to have face-to-face meetings this weekend or early next week.
Remember though, Gary Bettman stated last week that the league’s last offer was “off the table.” This could be problematic going forward in negotiations because that bares the tone that the next offer won’t be as player-friendly. If this is the case, it would be hard to expect the players to cave into something lower than 50/50 at this point.. which could very well lead to another full-season lockout.
Just when you thought the Leafs hit rock bottom, the pinnacle of the season is stripped away. Fans should feel robbed more than anyone. League revenues only soared from our contributions.