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Report: NHL to cancel Winter Classic on Thursday

By Matt Slovin, Daily Sports Editor
and Haley Goldberg, Daily News Editor
Published October 29, 2012

The National Hockey League plans to cancel its annual Winter Classic on Thursday, ESPN.com reported Monday.

The Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs are scheduled to play outdoors at Michigan Stadium on New Year’s Day. The game is expected to be a victim of the ongoing labor dispute between the NHL and its player’s union, which has resulted in the cancellation of the NHL season up to this point.

But as labor negotiations between the league and the Players’ Association have come to a standstill, it doesn’t appear there will be a resolution soon.

“I’m just hoping it’s not cancelled,” said Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson. “That’ll be a world-class event for the sport of hockey.”

David Ablauf, the University’s associate athletic director, said the Athletic Department is moving forward with its preparations for the game.

“Any decision would be announced by the NHL so we, as an athletic department, are currently still continuing our planning,” Ablauf said by phone Monday evening. “We’re still moving in that direction, and any final decision one way or the other is going to have to come from the NHL.”

Crain’s Detroit Business also reported last week that the Hockeytown Winter Festival will be cancelled alongside the cancellation of the Winter Classic. The festival — a weeklong celebration of hockey in Detroit — includes the Great Lakes Invitational, an annual tournament held each December.

This season, the Great Lakes Invitational was to be held at Comerica Park, but it will move back to its typical venue, Joe Louis Arena, if the NHL cancels the Winter Classic, Crain's reported.

Friday, Deputy NHL Commissioner Bill Daly and the NHL withdrew its most recent offer to the Players’ Association, which seemed to be a last-ditch effort to preserve a full 82-game season. That announcement led to the cancellation of all scheduled games for the month of November.

Under the league’s current agreement, the University will be owed $100,000 if the event is cancelled before Friday. If the decision to cancel is not made by Friday, the NHL maintains the ability to cancel anytime up until the game, but will then have to pay the University a total of $350,000.

The contract acknowledges the possibility of cancellation due to causes outside of the league’s control including “acts of God, labor disruptions, lockouts and/or strikes … riots, insurrections, civil disturbances, weather, sabotage, embargoes, blockades, acts of war” or a number of other potential disturbances.

The document also includes a clause that says the decision to cancel must come “by delivering written notice thereof to the University.”