The NHL announced on Friday that they have canceled their November slate of games and it appears that the bad news is still going to flow in like sewage over the next week. An NHL source has told ESPN hockey nut John Buccigross that the NHL Winter Classic will be the next game to go and it’s cancellation will be announced at some point next week.
NHL sources tell me the NHL will cancel Winter Classic and All Star Game. Announcement presently scheduled for Monday.
— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) October 26, 2012
Buccigross later retracted the Monday announcement date and stated more ambiguously that the announcement will come at some time this upcoming week.
Nevertheless, the NHL Winter Classic was widely known to be in danger of cancellation, but there had never been an imminent announcement implied up until this point. The Winter Classic is without a doubt one of hockey’s most important games next to the Stanley Cup and has become an event hockey fans look forward to each year.
The whole idea of the Winter Classic flies in the face of the self-destruction the NHL is undergoing. What the Winter Classic was doing was putting the sport in the public eye, building an event around single regular season game. Everyone gets excited about the playoffs, that’s not hard to publicize. But to make a lot of people watch a single, sometimes meaningless regular season game of hockey in this day and age is hard to do.
Add that to the fact a team from Los Angeles won the Stanley Cup, and anytime something happens in L.A., it gains traction. The NHL was starting to finally rebound from the 2004-05 lockout that forced hockey into the niche category when it comes to American sports. The NHL used to be on par with the NFL and MLB, but now it’s rivaling NASCAR for the sport only die-hards pay attention to.
Canceling the Winter Classic and killing the forward momentum that the sport has been gaining is devastating to watch, and it begs the question of whether or not hockey will ever recover. The Winter Classic was one of the brilliant things since that last lockout to help try and bring the sport out of the abyss, but now it’s the latest casualty of an ugly and potentially crippling lockout.