The NHL has already said that it will be impossible to play a full season because of the lockout, and even if the league is able to reschedule some games that were previously called off, it seems unlikely that the Winter Classic can be moved to a new date or location this season. It was the first scheduled for a college stadium — after the previous five were played in NFL or baseball stadiums — and the first to plan other events in a different venue as part of the celebration.
Comerica Park, home to the American League champion Detroit Tigers, was supposed to host the Hockeytown Winter Festival and the NHL Alumni Showdown. Those events are also casualties of the lockout, along with the attempt to break the hockey attendance record of 104,173 set by Michigan and Michigan State's hockey teams in 2010.
The NHL was to pay a total of $3 million — over multiple installments — to rent the stadium. Calling the game off by Friday cost the league only a $100,000 deposit paid to the University of Michigan.
"Clearly, as long as the lockout was in place, we couldn't go very far with any of the planning or execution of the event," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon told The AP. "We held several meetings to talk about what we wanted to do and to coordinate activities, but we never got to a point where any out-of-pocket money was spent. We're still going to host the event, it's just not going to be on the date originally planned, and we're excited about that."
When that might happen is anyone's guess.
In its most recent proposal, the NHL offered the union a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue, which exceeded $3 billion last season, but that offer was rejected. The players responded with their three offers that went nowhere.
The NHL proposal was contingent on the league playing a full season, which now won't happen. The league has called that its best offer and has since pulled it back.
"Last week we had a proposal to save a full season on the table. That has since been withdrawn," Daly told the AP. "That creates a different environment for talks."
Players earned 57 percent of revenue in the recently expired contract, in which a salary cap was included for the first time. Owners sought to bring that number below 50 percent this time before their most recent offer. The union tried to get talks restarted last week without preconditions, but was turned away after refusing to agree to bargain off the framework of the league's offer or issue another proposal with the league's offer serving as a starting point.
There is a major divide between the sides over how to deal with existing player contracts. The union wants to ensure that those are all paid in full without affecting future player contracts. League Commissioner Gary Bettman expressed a willingness to discuss the "make whole" provisions on existing contracts, but only if the economic portions of the league's offer are accepted first by the union.
This is the third lockout in Bettman's tenure. The first forced a shortened 1994-95 season, and the second led to the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season — the only time a major North American professional sports league lost a full season to a labor dispute.
AP Sports Writer Ira Podell in New York contributed to this report.
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