The NHL Winter Classic could be canceled as early as Thursday, according to several reports. The 2013 edition of the annual outdoor game was expected to shatter attendance records in The Big House at the University of Michigan. Instead, it could be delayed to next season or beyond, as the NHL wants to have a long lead-in (and good vibes) heading into an event that massive.
A significant reason why this Winter Classic was expected to be a revenue-generating juggernaut was that it was a multi-venue experience. While the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs play in Ann Arbor, Detroit's Comerica Park would host an alumni game doubleheader, a fan festival and other games from the minors and junior hockey.
Alas, it appears that as the Winter Classic goes, so go the other events scheduled in this celebration of hockey.
Helene St. James of the Free Press reports that the fate of the Winter Festival is linked to that of the Classic:
The bigger loss to the city of Detroit is the Winter Festival, a two-week event set to start in late December at Comerica Park and featuring a slew of hockey games ranging from high school to juniors to college to a Wings' alumni doubleheader.
While it may seem like that could still be held regardless of the state of the NHL, it is the NHL that would be building and funding an ice rink at Comerica, a trade-off the Wings agreed to in exchange for having the Winter Classic in Ann Arbor rather than Detroit.
The NHL's contract with the University of Michigan calls for a $100,000 payment if the Classic is canceled before Nov. 3; after that date, the league would pay $100,000 and expenses for the university. But as the New York Times noted in August, the contract doesn't cover Comerica:
The contract does not cover an associated slate of outdoor games at Detroit's Comerica Park involving Red Wings and Maple Leafs alumni teams as well as N.C.A.A., minor league and junior teams. None of those would be officially affected by an N.H.L. work stoppage, but it is unclear whether they would be played if the Winter Classic were canceled.
Comerica is also owned by the Illitch family, which owns the Red Wings, which play in the NHL, which is locking out its players. Hence, no ancillary events held in spite of the Winter Classic's demise.
What will be lost? Here's the lineup from the Red Wings:
GREAT LAKES INVITATIONAL
Dec. 27 - 3:30 pm
Game 1 - Michigan State vs. Western Michigan
Game 2 - Michigan vs. Michigan Tech
Dec. 28 - 3:30 pm
Game 3 - Consolation Game
Game 4 - Championship Game .
ONTARIO HOCKEY LEAGUE DOUBLEHEADER
Dec. 29 - 1:00 pm
Game 5 - Windsor Spitfires vs. Saginaw Spirit
Game 6 - Plymouth Whalers vs. London Knights .
AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE
Dec. 30 - 7:00 pm
Game 7 - Grand Rapids Griffins vs. Toronto Marlies .
2012 MAPLE LEAFS vs. RED WINGS ALUMNI SHOWDOWN™
Dec. 31 - TBD
Game 8 - Maple Leafs Alumni vs. Red Wings Alumni (Game 1)
Game 9 - Maple Leafs Alumni vs. Red Wings Alumni (Game 2)
Now, there are two alumni games scheduled, because there are so many ex-Red Wings and Leafs that were down with playing in such a game.
Hey, here's a crazy thought: Play one of those games somewhere, anywhere, and raise some money for charity in January. And then hold the other when the Winter Classic is rescheduled.