Here's the deal with the Winter Classic:
The NHL will not cancel the Winter Classic on Friday and is not expected to do so before Nov. 15.
Oh, OK. That's contrary to everything we've believed for two weeks. ... or, wait, maybe not?
I know some reporting Winter Classic won't be canceled today but I expect it will. Always allow for possible change of mind but I doubt it.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) November 2, 2012
I don't share the optimism of some of my colleagues who see a 2 week delay in Winter Classic cancellation.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) November 2, 2012
Barring a last-minute change of heart by top league officials, I still expect Winter Classic to be cancelled this afternoon.— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) November 2, 2012
To repeat last Friday's tweet, I was told that Winter Classic AND All Star Game Game would be axed this week. Stand by fax machine/telegraph— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) November 2, 2012
The NHL/NHLPA have had some positive talks over the last 2 days, which both sides expect to carry over. The WC remains in jeopardy, though.— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) November 2, 2012
Bill Daly says he expects the NHL and NHLPA to meet again in the "relatively near future."— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) November 2, 2012
NHL has internal mtngs today and will talk with PA (phone). Players are hopeful of face to face negotiations this wknd or early next week.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) November 2, 2012
... oh, and then:
Hearing now All Star Game will not be axed today. Perhaps Friday after Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve while "It's a Wonderful Life" is airing— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) November 2, 2012
Please. Just give us the answer.
The overwhelming opinion of the majority of hockey writers this Friday is that the Winter Classic will be canceled before the day is out. If it happens, it'll likely be late in the afternoon as the NHL tries to bury it after most people have disconnected for the weekend.
But rest assured, if the league does cancel its biggest event -- which, for the first time features a Canadian team -- just 48 days into the NHL lockout, it will be noticed. It will be a big deal, and nearly all the optimism for an NHL season will evaporate along with it.
If the game is indeed canceled Friday as so many have been told it will, the league won't be operating with money in mind. They're already out $100,000 of their total $3 million rent payment to the University of Michigan regardless of what happens but, while they have a $250,000 payment due Friday, everything but the initial $100,000 is refundable.
The league could cancel the Winter Classic on Jan. 1 and they'd only owe Michigan $100,000 plus whatever expenses the school took on to make the game happen. In the grand scheme of things, it wouldn't be a lot of money. Not when that grand scheme includes ticket sales and parking fees and concession sales and merchandise sales, all of which the league keeps 100 percent of the revenue.
And as for logistics, the NHL doesn't need to begin setting up the rink until late December. They had just days to set up the rink at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh in 2011, and aside from a bit of weather, that game went off without a hitch. The NHL is good at this stuff. They know what they're doing. They don't need two months to get a Winter Classic off the ground.
Oh, and fan with tickets planning on going to the game ... do you think they're canceling this game now because they care about your airfare and hotel fees? Think again.
The bottom line is that the NHL has no realistic reason to cancel the Winter Classic before Dec. 1 at the absolute earliest. Canceling it now would be a hasty move that honestly doesn't make any sense.