Detroit Red Wings: Ding, Dong the ’13 Winter Classic is Dead

Photo courtesy of Paul Sancya/Associated Press

By Rhys Richards (@RREsq)

Friday, the National Hockey League announced the cancellation of the 2013 Bridgestone Winter Classic to be held at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.

The NHL’s lockout of the players has now reached 47 days. On the surface, the NHL’s decision to cancel its most important, high profile regular season game was merely a smart business choice. The NHL would have owed a payment of $100,000 to the University of Michigan had the game not been cancelled by November 3rd.

For the city and people of Detroit, last Friday’s announcement was a bigger disappointment than it was for the average NHL fan. This Winter Classic was scheduled to be the premier portion of an entire Winter Festival, which would have also featured 9 alumni, AHL, college, junior, and high school games to be played at Comerica Park in downtown Detroit. The Detroit News estimates that 400,000 people were expected to attend the Festival.

The NHL and NHLPA are set to meet today, but this latest cancellation could very well turn into the death knell for the entire season. The loss of another NHL season would be a major setback for an already tenuous Detroit economy.

Various Red Wings told the Detroit Free Press about their disappointment. Defenseman Ian White said, “It’s surprising that people actually have the courage to cancel something like that, when so much relies upon it, and so many people were looking forward to it,” White said. “I think to this point we’ve already had some damage that won’t be able to be undone, to our sport, and they just continue to pile it on.”

White added, “It actually embarrasses me as a player. You go out in public, people view us differently from this. And the NHL just continues along this path.”

Forwards Dan Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi were also frustrated. Cleary said, “I’m almost in disbelief, a little bit. I’m obviously disappointed. I think everybody was looking forward to the Winter Classic. It was going to be just such a great event, not only for downtown Detroit with all the events we were going to have, but also in Ann Arbor, maybe setting a record attendance. That stings a little bit.”

Bertuzzi lamented, “I’ve always wanted to play in one. And my kid was going to play at Comerica. I had family, friends coming to town for this. It’s very unfortunate for everyone, especially the city of Detroit.”

Goaltender Jimmy Howard, who was one of the Red Wings featured during the announcement of the event, told the Detroit News, “I was thrilled to get the chance to play in it. I remember the day when they announced it and being out there on the middle of the 50-yard line and looking up at the stands and thinking this is going to happen.” He added, “I was very excited at the time. It’s disappointing that it’s come to this.”

The NHL offered some solace as it confirmed that the next Winter Classic would involve the same two teams in the same location.

Detroiters would certainly prefer to be packing the Joe for regular season games as the city winds down from a show of its embarrassment of professional sports riches evidenced by the Tigers, Red Wings’ owner Mike Ilitch’s other team and the 2012 American League Champions.

With every passing day of this lockout, hockey fans blame both sides more and more. Principles are worth exactly nothing when a business that has been regularly increasing revenue is not making a dime. Sadly, Detroiters who work at downtown restaurants, casinos, and Joe Louis Arena, among other businesses, are affected the most by the lack of NHL games. After all, they cannot feed themselves or their families with either the NHL or NHLPA’s principles.

OTHER RED WINGS NEWS: Forward Darren Helm was hit in the cheek with a puck at an informal practice Friday morning. Helm suffered a fractured cheekbone and will find out on Saturday whether he needs surgery.

Superstar forward and expected team captain Henrik Zetterberg is lighting up the top Swiss league with Detroit rookie Damien Brunner on his line for EV Zug. Zetterberg has posted eight goals and five assists in seven games. Brunner has scored 11 times while adding 17 assists in 17 games. Brunner leads the National League in scoring. Former NHLer and Zug player Glen Metropolit (23) and current NHLers Tyler Seguin (23) and Logan Couture (21) round out the top four scorers.

Superstar forward Pavel Datsyuk is doing equally well for the KHL’s CSKA Moscow. In 15 games, Datsyuk has posted six goals and 13 assists and a plus-4 rating. Datsyuk did an interview with Yahoo earlier this week, which can be found at http://sports.yahoo.com/news/nhl–pavel-datsyuk-s-wisdom–whimsy-and-wizardry-on-full-display-in-khl.html. In addition to Datsyuk’s legendary wit, Red Wings fans should note that Datsyuk was unwavering when asked whether he missed Detroit.

The General Manager of CSKA Moscow is former Detroit superstar forward Sergei Federov.

Information obtained from www.freep.com, www.detroitnews.com, http://www.nationalleague.ch/NL/sponsoren/de/topscorer_overview.php, and http://www.eurohockey.com/stats/league/2012/395-khl.html?season=2013&type=1&position=0&nationality=0.     

Share your thoughts about the NHL, the Detroit Red Wings, and hockey in general with Rhys at Twitter: @RREsq.  He can be reached via email at RhysJRichards@gmail.com.  Join the many fans of The Hockey Guys on Facebook and Twitter @TheHockeyGuys

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