Sources tell ESPN.com todaythat an internal meeting at NHL headquarters has confirmed that the league's marquee event, the Winter Classic, will be officially cancelled later this afternoon.
Scheduled to be held at the University of Michigan's football stadium in Ann Arbor between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs, it was to be the largest crowd to ever witness an NHL game. The event would likely be rescheduled for the same teams and venue next season. Assuming there is one.
The romanticism of hockey in the elements has captured the imaginations of hardcore, casual, and non-fans alike in each of the last four seasons, and the accompanying HBO 24/7 series has taken insight and love of the game to another level. The league's self imposed lockout now throws all of that momentum generated right in the garbage, contributing to the growing irrelevance of the sport in the United States.
The cancellation is largely a matter of practicality. With so many events to put together in the next two months, two different rinks to build, sponsorship considerations, labor to make it happen and the millions of dollars involved it makes sense logistically. There's also the matter of the NHL's cost, which stands at a lost deposit of $100,000 to the University of Michigan currently, and would only climb from here.
Practical or not, the cancellation will be heralded throughout the hockey world as further proof that a season won't be held at all. It's important to remember that it's just one game, paling in comparison to the hundreds of others already axed. If you're inclined to believe, as some do, that this is all following a pre-written script and that hockey will resume sometime around the first of the year, then you knew this was coming.
Hockey media on Twitter today is reporting that Bill Daly and Steve Fehr have tentatively agreed to resume in-face talks sometime in the near future, though no one knows what the agenda would be, where they'd talk, or when.
They're talking about talking. The Winter Classic is cancelled.
Compelling stuff for a sport that should be flourishing as the calendar changes to November.