The New York Times has reported that the NHL will technically be able to cancel the January 1st, 2013 Winter Classic outdoor game in Michigan as late as January 1st, the day of the event.
The flexibility in the cancellation time is because of a work stoppage arising from the “lack of a collective bargaining agreement” the contract between the NHL and the University of Michigan shows.
The league is paying a $3 million stadium rental fee according to the contract and will be able to forfeit all but $100,000 should they have to cancel the event.
The contract allows the NHL some leeway in case of a lockout and would allow Michigan to host the event even if the lockout was not resolved until late December.
The event puts a lot of economic pressure on the league to resolve things and continue with the season. The pressure could act as a brake against losing the entire NHL season. The last time the league struggled with CBA negotiations, the entire season was lost.
The 2013 Winter Classic sees the Detroit Red Wings playing against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Ann Arbor, MI. This event is expected to break the world record for hockey attendance.
Being so close to the border, one of Canada’s most popular original six teams is sure to draw a maximum capacity crowd.
Although contractually the NHL is able to cancel with little setback, the pressure to host the Winter Classic seems too high for the league to accept it being cancelled. It is unclear at this time if the Alumni game and AHL game would also be cancelled in the event of a lockout or should the Winter Classic be cancelled.