As the National Hockey League enters the second week of the lockout, preseason games are being cancelled and soon to be followed by regular season games. One game in particular which many people thought could save the season maybe on the verge of being cancelled as well. That game is the Winter Classic.
During the 2004-05 lockout, which wiped out an entire season, fans could not cling onto any one particular game on the schedule, but during this lockout they have found one. Fans have hoped that the Winter Classic, the prize jewel of the National Hockey League, would be there to save the season and to get everyone involved in the labor strife back to the bargaining table.
Well think again. The fans hopes may have been dashed. According to a report in last Friday’s Toronto Star, Commissioner , Gary Bettman plans to cancel this season’s Winter Classic game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings as early as November if there is not a deal in place with his players.
“Gary told (the board of governors) he was going to cancel the Winter Classic in November because he didn’t want the players to use the game as leverage,” the Star’s source said.
Sources close to the players said the NHLPA had heard the same thing. “It’s a scare tactic,” the union source said. “It just proves the NHL has no intention of negotiating any time soon.”
If the Winter Classic game between the Maple Leafs and Red Wings gets wiped out, so does the successful HBO 24/7 reality series, a behind-the-scenes look at the teams involved. Another element of the game that would be wiped would be the alumni games that get played the day before the big game on January 1st.
This game is always one of the highlights of the hockey season with players, retired players and fans enjoying an outdoor game under whatever weather mother nature provides. The different venues have provided everyone with a new and different scenario each year.
The Winter Classic was being played at the University of Michigan football stadium, also known as the Big House. The event would draw a crowd of around 100,000 and has traditionally been a ratings hit in Canada and the United States.
With the labor negotiations at a standstill, there is a very good possibility that one the NHL’s most popular games could be on the chopping block leaving many people to wonder what impact would the cancellation of the game will have on the local economy and the NHL.
Many insiders in the sport of hockey believe that the Winter Classic brings significant amount of money to the teams and the host cities each year. Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon, said, “The local economy in Ann Arbor is looking to this event for an economic boost.” Ticket prices range between $79 and $279, as they are being sold at seven different pricing levels.
Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon said, “The average Michigan home game generates between $14 and $15 million for local businesses.” Brandon expects the Winter Classic generate even more money. According to the NHL, the annual winter outdoor game generates between $30 million and $36 million for the host cities.
At the official announcement of the Winter Classic, NHL chief operating officer John Collins estimated the economic impact for the weeklong hockey celebration could top the $75 million scale for southeast Michigan. He was taking into account both Detroit and Ann Arbor venues.
Marry Kerr, resident of the Ann Arbor Convention and Visitors Bureau losing the Winter Classic would be disappoint and divesting as she said the following, “But if you look at the big picture, our whole region would suffer if the event were cancelled.
So we decided to ask economist and author Andrew Zimbalist, a favorite voice on the economy of sports, how would the loss of Winter Classic effect Detroit’s economy? His answer will surprise many of you. “It [Winter Classic] is a big game in the media, but not economically,” said Zimbalist, who is a professor of economics at Smith College.
Professor Zimbalist would go onto say, “The Winter Classic is a tourist attraction, which will attract several thousand people. If Detroit lost out on the Winter Classic it would not be noticeable. Hockey games will draw the local fans to the event; they do not have that much of an effect on the local economy.”
If the Winter Classic becomes a casualty of the lockout, the National Hockey League will not only lose money, but potentially lose a game that garners just as much media attention as any college football bowl game on New Year’s Day.