Skip to content

Was canceling the Winter Classic what CBA negotiations needed?

Nov 5, 2012, 3:11 PM EDT

2013 Winter Classic

For some, the cancelation of the 2013 Winter Classic was the worst moment of the lockout.

But could it also be the most important?

Friday’s scrapping of the NHL’s annual outdoor game was met with doom and gloom. The Winter Classic is, after all, the league’s signature regular season event and a television ratings bonanza.

Canceling an event of this nature was significant. In addition to the public relations nightmare and lost viewership, an estimated economic impact of $30-$35 million fell by the wayside.

So too did the Hockeytown Winter Festival and, at the risk of getting all schmaltzy on you, the joy and excitement of the 80,000-90,000 people that had already purchased tickets.

The impact of the cancelation resonated with players. Red Wings defenseman Ian White, who was set to participate in the Winter Classic, said as much to the Windsor Star:

“If [Gary Bettman's] willing to cancel that, I don’t know why he’d want to play a season after that, because that’s the highlight of the year,” he explained. “So if he’s willing to throw away that game, then the balance of the season, I would think, is definitely on the line.”

Bettman’s reputation precedes him in these instances. This is the third lockout of his 19-year tenure as NHL commissioner, and he remains the only commissioner in North American pro sports to lose an entire season to a work stoppage.

Fear that scrapping the Winter Classic would lead to a canceled season might’ve been very real for players. Perhaps that’s why, during Thursday’s conference call, NHLPA members expressed they wanted their leadership to do more negotiating.

Something else to consider…

We’ve seen past instances where labor negotiations were kickstarted by a significant event — a recent example came during the NFL-NFLRA lockout, which started in June and lasted nearly four full months, with replacement officials working all four weeks of the preseason and 48 regular season games.

Despite both sides appearing entrenched in their respective positions and far from a deal, the work stoppage was solved in 48 hours after a highly publicized incident during Seattle’s 14-12 victory over Green Bay on Monday Night Football.

A controversial, game-deciding touchdown call by a replacement official was roundly criticized — on-air, ESPN color commentator Jon Gruden called it “tragic and comical” — and within days, the regular officiating crews were back working games.

Now back to hockey.

On Friday, the Winter Classic was canceled.

Within 48 hours, the following happened:

– News leaked of the NHL making concessions to its “Make Whole” policy.

– NHL commissioner Bill Daly met with NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr for a lengthy discussion that “covered a lot of ground.”

– Reports surfaced that the NHL and NHLPA were set to resume meetings this week.

All of which begs the question: Did the lockout just have its Golden Tate moment?

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Johansen has gotten no shortage of KHL offers

    Sep 20, 2014, 11:36 PM EDT

    Columbus Blue Jackets  v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Two Getty Images

    The restricted free agent seems to be at an impasse with Columbus.

  2. Merrill day-to-day with ‘wind taken out of him’ after head hit

    Sep 20, 2014, 11:01 PM EDT

    Jon Merrill Getty Images

    Devils GM Lou Lamoriello said he’s “fine,” but he initially said the same of Clowe when the player had a concussion.

  3. Versteeg looks to rebound from ‘brutal’ finish to 2013-14

    Sep 20, 2014, 10:05 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Kings v Chicago Blackhawks - Game Two Getty Images

    The knee injury he sustained during the lockout shortened season might be partially to blame for his struggles.

  4. Luongo’s ‘mind is at ease’ in Florida

    Sep 20, 2014, 9:07 PM EDT

    Roberto Luongo Getty Images

    That’s after years of being the center of a goaltending controversy in Vancouver.

  5. Championship Kings reunited after short summer

    Sep 20, 2014, 8:09 PM EDT

    Justin Williams Getty Images

    Can they be the first repeat winners since Detroit in 1997-98?

  6. Could Burns bounce between forward and defense?

    Sep 20, 2014, 6:07 PM EDT

    BrentBurns3

    Do Thornton and Marleau disagree with coach Todd McLellan on this point?

  7. Sabres’ Reinhart will debut in preseason opener Sunday

    Sep 20, 2014, 5:05 PM EDT

    Sam Reinhart AP

    It’s his first chance to provide his argument for why he should make the team.

  8. Bruins ’14 first-rounder Pastrnak injures shoulder

    Sep 20, 2014, 4:08 PM EDT

    David Pastrnak Getty Images

    Tough timing for him as he had been playing alongside fellow countryman David Krejci.

  9. Bruins’ Warsofsky taking Krug’s spot

    Sep 20, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT

    David Warsofsky Getty Images

    Optimistic about sticking with the big club out of camp.

  10. Report: Clarkson, Bozak out with lower body injuries

    Sep 20, 2014, 2:13 PM EDT

    David Clarkson #71 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates in a pre-season game against the Buffalo Sabres on Sept 22, 2013 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
(September 21, 2013 - Source: Claus Andersen/Getty Images North America) Getty Images

    Expected to miss a couple days according to Randy Carlyle.

  11. Would the Leafs break up their top line?

    Sep 20, 2014, 12:31 PM EDT

    Phil Kessel AP

    Experimentation process has begun as team looks for secondary scoring.

  12. Lindback, Rynnas battle for backup job in Dallas

    Sep 20, 2014, 11:47 AM EDT

    Tampa Bay Lightning v Pittsburgh Penguins Getty Images

    Stars searching for a suitable No. 2 behind Kari Lehtonen.

  13. Avs’ Tanguay looking to bounce back from injury riddled season

    Sep 20, 2014, 10:51 AM EDT

    SUNRISE, FL - JANUARY 24: Alex Tanguay #40 of the Colorado Avalanche skates with the puck against the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on January 24, 2014 in Sunrise, Florida. Colorado defeated the Panthers 3-2. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images) Getty Images

    After playing in just 16 games in 2013-14, he’s looking to be a contributor this season.

  14. Evander Kane: I know I can score 50 goals

    Sep 19, 2014, 11:01 PM EDT

    Evander Kane AP

    The Winnipeg Jets would settle for far less after he scored just 19 last season.

  15. Tom Wilson (broken leg) not sure when he’ll return

    Sep 19, 2014, 10:03 PM EDT

    Tom Wilson Getty Images

    The last thing he wants is to suffer a setback by rushing his recovery.

  16. ‘C’-less Thornton comes out swing against Wilson’s ‘tomorrow team’ talk

    Sep 19, 2014, 9:37 PM EDT

    TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 3: Joe Thornton #19 of the San Jose Sharks skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on December 3, 2013 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Sharks defeated the Leafs 4-2. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

    That’s not the only summer statement he took exception to.

Sign up for Fantasy hockey

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. J. Quick (1224)
  2. N. Horton (1026)
  3. C. Giroux (1015)
  4. A. Ovechkin (933)
  5. B. Bishop (925)