The Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic scheduled to take place New Years Day in the Big House has been cancelled, the National Hockey League announced Friday.
One day before the NHL would be required to pay the University $250,000 per the payment schedule agreed upon between the University and the league, the NHL called off the event. Because of the date of the cancellation, the University will be owed $100,000.
Athletic Director Dave Brandon said in a press release until the announcement was made, no changes were made in preparation.
“This is an unfortunate announcement but one that looked imminent given the current labor situation between the NHL and its players,” Brandon said. “We knew this was a possibility but we stayed prepared in the event the labor dispute would get resolved.”
The event, agreed upon last February, was to have the Detroit Red Wings play against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Big House which seats more than 100,000 people, and was expected to be the largest crowd for a hockey game.
The NHL also cancelled the accompanying SirusXM Hockeytown Winter Festival slated to be held Dec. 16 to 31 in Comerica Park, owned by the Ilitch Family, which also owns the Red Wings and the Detroit Tigers.
This cancellation comes as the NHL is in a labor dispute which has resulted in all games being canceled through Nov. 30 and has put the entire season in jeopardy. Players are currently locked out and have not been able to participate in training camps. The NHL season was supposed to start officially on Oct. 11. No more formal bargaining meetings have been scheduled since Oct. 18 when the NHL rejected proposals from the players’ union.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a press release that the Winter Classic combined with the Hockeytown Winter Festival is not possible because of the logistical demands that are required for the events and not having a contract in place.
“We simply are out of time,” Daly said. “We are extremely disappointed, for our fans and for all those affected, to have to cancel the Winter Classic and Hockeytown Winter Festival events.”
The next Winter Classic will be held at the Big House. In 2010, Michigan played Michigan State in the Big Chill at the Big House. A crowd of 104,173 attended that game, but the Winter Classic was expected to set a new record for the largest attendance at a hockey game.
“Our relationship with the NHL has been terrific,” Brandon said. “Both parties have a mutual interest in making the Winter Classic a successful and historical event. We are glad they committed to bring the next game to the Big House, matching the Red Wings and Maple Leafs.”
Those who purchased tickets will be able to get a refund, or may keep them for when the Winter Classic is scheduled again.
While the Red Wings and Maple Leafs will not be playing in the Big House, the Wolverines, Michigan State, Michigan Tech and Western Michigan will all take part in the 48th Annual Great Lakes Invitational at the Joe Louis Arena on Dec. 29 and 30. The tournament was originally scheduled to be played at Comerica Park.
This story was updated with more information at 4:05 p.m. on Nov. 2