Skip to content

Was canceling the Winter Classic what CBA negotiations needed?

Nov 5, 2012, 3:11 PM EST

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. Sens’ Methot may not ever top what he did yesterday

    Feb 1, 2015, 9:37 AM EST

    Marc Methot Chris Terry AP

    A big hip check and three assists from the defenseman.

  2. Video: Niemi robs Toews, Sharks hang on to beat the Blackhawks

    Feb 1, 2015, 1:41 AM EST

    Antti Niemi AP

    Got a little help, too. Quick whistle on Toews chances.

  3. Video: Bickell crushes Hannan, physical play picks up in San Jose

    Feb 1, 2015, 12:07 AM EST

    Bryan Bickell Getty Images

    No call. Got a little testy out there after that hit.

  4. Rask, Bruins complete January with impressive victory against Kings

    Jan 31, 2015, 11:17 PM EST

    Tuukka Rask Getty Images

    Boston maintaining their hold on a Wild Card spot.

  5. Leafs scoring slump hits historical low

    Jan 31, 2015, 10:23 PM EST

    Phil Kessel AP

    Maybe February will be better?

  6. Oilers’ Hall (bone bruise) to sit out versus Flames

    Jan 31, 2015, 9:44 PM EST

    Taylor Hall Getty Images

    Battle of Alberta isn’t what it used to be.

  7. Video: Rangers’ Lundqvist takes puck to the neck

    Jan 31, 2015, 8:57 PM EST

    Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 5.47.56 PM

    Scary moment, but he has stayed in the game.

  8. Wild’s Suter reportedly questionable to play against Canucks

    Jan 31, 2015, 7:43 PM EST

    Boston Bruins v Minnesota Wild

    Starting Sunday, these teams will play each other three times in 16 days.

  9. Loss to Red Wings a ‘wake-up call’ for Islanders

    Jan 31, 2015, 6:19 PM EST

    Jack Capuano AP

    Two losses in a row for the Islanders.

  10. Mike Richards trying to make the best of being sent to the AHL

    Jan 31, 2015, 5:53 PM EST

    Mike Richards Getty Images

    Was put on waivers, cleared, and sent to the minors this week.

  11. Red Wings’ youth shines vs. Isles for ninth win in 11 games

    Jan 31, 2015, 4:47 PM EST

    Gustav Nyquist, Thomas Hickey, Matt Martin, Justin Abdelkader AP

    Detroit is forcing itself into the Stanley Cup conversation.

  12. Price leads Habs past Caps with second straight shutout

    Jan 31, 2015, 4:08 PM EST

    Jay Beagle, Carey Price, Andrei Markov AP

    Montreal has put pressure on Tampa Bay in the battle for the Eastern Conference lead.

  13. Horton shows some improvement, future remains cloudy

    Jan 31, 2015, 2:48 PM EST

    Columbus Blue Jackets v San Jose Sharks Getty Images

    He has a degenerative back injury that might lead to career-ending surgery.

Featured video

Kings come back in third to top Blackhawks
Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. E. Malkin (3666)
  2. T. Hall (3076)
  3. S. Crosby (2839)
  4. P. Rinne (2624)
  5. M. Brodeur (2593)
  1. C. Price (2566)
  2. M. Richards (2354)
  3. K. Letang (2251)
  4. K. Okposo (2213)
  5. P. Hornqvist (2046)