We've been hearing about it for weeks and weeks, but it appears the sad reality will soon be upon us. The NHL could cancel the Winter Classic as early as this Thursday, according to Katie Strang at ESPN.com.
The move wouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who's been following the lockout, but the timing of the move might. The reason the league is moving quickly has to do as much with a monetary penalty the NHL would face if it cancels the game before or after November 3 as well as the PR nightmare of having to hype the Winter Classic on both a short schedule and with the bad taste of the lockout still fresh in fan's mouths.
This would be a huge deal in the CBA negotiations not only because the Winter Classic is a massive money-maker for the league, but because it's the most nationally visible NHL game all year. The outdoor game has become its own marquee annual event a la the Kentucky Derby or the Indianapolis 500. To cancel it would be a huge blow to the psyche of the hockey community, and to the pocketbooks of the owners.
It was once thought that a potential Winter Classic cancellation would put pressure on the owners to make a deal, since they'd take the biggest hit without it. But if these reports are to be believed, the cancellation of the NHL's biggest once-a-year event might not be that big a deal to the guys who write the checks, and that's a scary thought.