It had become the signature event of the National Hockey League. As big, if not bigger, than the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Now, the best idea ever invented by the NHL has been wiped off the schedule, just like every other regular season game in October and November.
Why so soon?
In advance of the Jan. 1 Classic between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings at Michigan Stadium the NHL was scheduled to make a $250,0000 payment toward the $3 million rental of Michigan Stadium on Friday.
Another $1 million was due on Dec. 1, the anticipated start date for the construction of the outdoor rink. The remaining majority would have been due on Dec. 28.
But was the timing of the cancellation also intended to place additional pressure on players to accept the terms of the proposal made by the owners back on Oct. 16? The players have said for the past two weeks that they are prepared to re-open talks, but on the condition that every aspect of the owners’ proposal is negotiable.
In the meantime, 115,000 spectators and millions of television viewers will miss out on what would have been another incredible outdoor event.
Last season’s Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia averaged 3.75 million viewers on NBC. By comparison, all six games of last spring's Stanley Cup Finals between the Kings and Devils averaged 3 million viewers.
And, according to NHL.com, the Winter Classic generated $330 million in new sponsorship revenue over the past three seasons.
In addition to the Winter Classic the NHL is also cancelling it’s award-winning "24/7" HBO series. Taping of that show was scheduled to begin the third week of November.