If the NHL were a pirate ship, the Winter Classic would be walking the plank.
Here we are on Day 47 of the lockout, and negotiators for each side---Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr---have been speaking by phone, but no formal negotiations have been scheduled.
So the popular and lucrative Winter Classic, between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 1 at Michigan Stadium, could plummet into the drink today or tomorrow, along with the rest of the schedule through November, so far.
Why so soon?
The NHL has a contract with the University of Michigan to use the Big House, its football stadium, for a fee of about $3 million. An installment of $250,000 is due Friday, according to Annarbor.com. But if the league backs out by Friday, it will lose only the $100,000 payment sent in February.
Newsday and other outlets reported last week that the game could be cancelled late this week.
It’s not solely an issue of money---or leverage against the players, who are missing paychecks. There’s extensive advance preparations, sponsorships to be locked in and other moving parts.
The game, which is televised by NBC, has brought tens of millions of dollars in revenues to the host cities in the past: Buffalo (Orchard Park), Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
Still without Con Ed service at home here in Westchester County, by the way, filing this from the lovely Warner Library in Tarrytown, which has power and an internet connection.