Report: NHL to cancel Classic

Posted: October 31, 2012

We have not yet breached November on the calendar, yet the NHL is reportedly ready to cancel the New Year's Day Winter Classic this week, according to ESPN.com.

The league is expected to announce the cancellation of its marquee regular-season event, which is already sold out for the 109,000-seat Michigan Stadium matchup between Toronto and Detroit. The Winter Classic, which the Flyers hosted earlier this year at Citizens Bank Park, is annually the league's highest-rated game on television, its biggest gate, and largest ancillary revenue producer.

The NHL and its Players' Association have not bargained since Oct. 18, when the league proposed a "50-50" split in hockey related revenue. The NHLPA responded on Oct. 20 with three different proposals, all of which were shot down within 15 minutes.

Even if both sides were ready to resume negotiating, which they apparently are not, Hurricane Sandy would make it tough for them to come together. The NHL's offices in New York were closed on Monday and Tuesday, and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr has retreated to Toronto.

Fehr told ESPN.com on Monday that he was ready to revisit the league's last proposal. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said that ship has sailed; the league withdrew that offer on Friday with the cancelation of all games in November.

"Now we are spending time thinking about our next proposal and how best to get closer to a resolution," Daly told ESPN. "We hope the union is doing the same thing. Given the fact that the union refused even to discuss our latest proposal, it would appear that we still have a large gulf to bridge."

It has appeared all along that the NHLPA has built its campaign around the NHL not being willing to cancel their largest revenue generator of the season. That bluff may be called this week.

Contact Frank Seravalli at seravaf@phillynews.com or @DNFlyers on Twitter.

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