Two months ahead of New Year's Day, the NHL officially announced Friday the cancellation of the annual Winter Classic, which was to feature the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. The decision led to an official statement from Donald Fehr, executive director of the National Hockey League Players' Assocation:
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.
Fehr's statement seems to indicate that the NHL is not even in contact with the players' association or is not bargaining at all at this point.
The cancellation wipes out the NHL's biggest generator of revenue, and there is some concern that with the showcase off the schedule, there is little reason to hold any of the 2012-13 season.
The axing of the Winter Classic necessitates the cancellation of related events, which include:
- The Hockeytown Winter Festival, held Dec. 15-31 at Comerica Park in Detroit
- The Great Lakes Invitational, a college hockey tournament that features teams from Michigan
- The Winter Classic Alumni Game
- An AHL game between the Toronto Marlies and Grand Rapids Griffins
- A doubleheader from the Ontario Hockey League