According to an article written by Katie Strang at ESPN (with Lebrun contributing), the league plans to cancel the Winter Classic on Thursday. Although there wasn’t any detailed information in the article as to why the Classic would be canceled this early, other sites including the CBC and the NY Times have cited different contractual terms as the reasoning behind a potential cancellation.
According to CBC.ca, if the Winter Classic is canceled by Nov. 2, the NHL will only forfeit $100,000 of the $3 million in rent owed to the University of Michigan. However, the NY Times had a somewhat contradictory report.
If the league cancels at any point from Saturday until Jan. 1, it will forfeit the same $100,000 and whatever expenses the university incurs up to the time of cancellation.
In both cases, the university would refund the remainder of the N.H.L.’s $3 million rental fee to the league.
The Times goes on to report that the league is allowed to cancel the Winter Classic as late as the day of the game and only be on the hook for a minimal penalty. Obviously there are a lot of implications that can be made with this type of information.
Perhaps leaking these contract terms to the press is some sort PR strategy to put pressure on the CBA negotiations. The NHLPA has obviously done a masterful job at denting the league’s brand one player tweet at a time. The NHL on the other hand has been conducting focus groups trying to just create a PR strategy.
Personally, I would be surprised if the league canceled the Winter Classic this early. The money they make off of the event far outweighs the cost of organizing it. There were reports last year the Classic brought in some $35 million in revenue. If that figure is anywhere near accurate, the rental fee seems rather insignificant, unless of course the league was never planning on having a season. Let’s face it, if the NHL cancels the Winter Classic, the chances of having any semblance of a season seems all but lost.
Hopefully Thursday comes and goes without any major news.