On the fourty-eighth day of the NHL Lockout, the situation seems more dire than ever. At 2 PM, the league announced that they would be canceling their 6th annual Winter Classic, which was set to be played on New Year’s Day between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.
“The logistical demands for staging events of this magnitude made today’s decision unavoidable. We simply are out of time,” said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. “We are extremely disappointed, for our fans and for all those affected, to have to cancel the Winter Classic and Hockeytown Winter Festival events.”
With the elimination of 327 total games, including arguably the most anticipated game of the season, this seems to be the last straw for hockey fans. Many took to social media today to express their anger towards the league and its’ Players Association, and are ready to completely move on from the league as a whole.
They certainly cannot be blamed.
For the second time in just eight years, the league has closed its doors on the players, leaving the fans out in the cold as they watch a full 82 game season dwindle down with each passing day. Despite going through the “nuclear winter” of 2004, the lockout of 2012 seems poised to kill the entire season. Both commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA leader Donald Fehr (who also led the MLB Players Union during their 1994-95 strike) have their respective parties fully committed to getting the deal they seek, and both sides have struggled to find common ground. The greed on both sides has become almost sickening, and the innocence and fun of the game is being overshadowed by the business aspect.
It’s certainly understandable for fans to be turned off by these ongoing CBA negotiations, but if you’re threatening to be completely done with the NHL, they’ll be more than happy to call your bluff.
What makes the NHL so special is that there is no other hockey league in the world with such incredible talent. The league boasts the best European, American, and Canadian talent in the world, making teams in the KHL seem like glorified minor league affiliates. Furthermore, the NHL boasts the best postseason system in all of sports. Only in hockey could a team like the Los Angeles Kings, who crawled into the Playoffs as an 8th seed, destroy the competition on their way to their first Stanley Cup Title. NHL fans are some of the biggest die hard fans in sports, and to give up on ones team, even after the Lockout ends would be spiteful.
The NHL and the Players Association will take all the time they need to reach the deal they want, because there is simply no other hockey league that can suffice.
The Commissioner knows it. The owners know it. The players know it. And deep down, the fans do too.
Jake Pavorsky is a contributor for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JakePavorsky.