After the Detroit Red Wings canceled their annual prospect tournament, it has produced many more questions about the future of the 2012-2013 NHL season. The prospect tournament, which has been held since 1998, has done a great job in the past of showcasing future NHL talent as well as providing an exciting venue for hockey fans in Michigan and surrounding states. With the Wings organization calling a halt to this miniature hockey gem only 30 days before the end of the current collective bargaining agreement, it could be a sign of things to come.
Wings GM Ken Holland has stressed that the cancelation has more to do with giving the hotels, ice rinks, and their staff advanced notice, rather than cementing his belief that there will be no NHL season this fall. This does little to quell the nerves of hockey fans constantly checking their Twitterfeed, hoping to hear that the NHL and NHLPA have come together with an agreement.
Possibly even more disturbing about the possibility of a lockout would mean that this year’s Winter Classic would also be stricken from the books. No Winter Classic this year means no Red Wings – Maple Leafs, no double alumni game, and no way to stop the fans of these two storied franchises from being terribly scorned. The hype around this year’s Winter Classic has been greater than ever before. The alumni games will not only feature hall of fame players, but hall of fame coaches. The place: University of Michigan’s “Big House” was looking to hold more than 110,000 fans. Even the NHL game itself, although neither team is a favorite to win the cup, features arguably Canada’s biggest franchise against America’s biggest franchise. Simply said, losing this game would be a great loss for both the NHL and its fans.
Of course there is always optimism. There is a possibility that a new collective bargaining agreement does get put together at the final hour and the NHL season begins on time. The players seem to want this, the NHL knows due to TV contracts it needs this, and fans are almost at the breaking point with three strikes in less than 20 years. Yet with the cancellation of this tournament and both arguing parties far apart in the negotiations, we might just be seeing the first of many dominoes to fall.