Feb. 9, 2012; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings center Henrik Zetterberg (40) during a NHL press conference for the 2013 Winter Classic between Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

LOCKOUT: Day Eight - Winter Classic on the Chopping Block

An insider for the NHL told the star. com yesterday  that if no settlement in the CBA talks would occur in the near future, then NHL commissioner Gary Bettman plans to cancel the 2013 Winter Classic as early as November. “Gary told [the NHL board of governors] he was going to cancel the Winter Classic in November because he didn’t want the players to use the game as leverage.” the source was quoted to have said. OK time out. So far we’ve proven that the NHL ownership is profoundly greedy. Perhaps we need to add emotionally unbalanced or just plain stupid as well. Do they not understand the amount of money they’ll be tossing away?  God forbid NBC’s legal department decides to take this personally and go on the warpath.

If this was just an unsubstantiated rumor, we could just add it to the pile of misconceptions and half-truths that trickle out during most large scale negotiations. Sadly, an insider at the NHLPA offices reported hearing the exact same thing. “It’s a scare tactic,” offered the players’ union insider. “It just proves the NHL has no intention of negotiating any time soon.”

Let’s play devil’s advocate for a moment.(I suspect Bettman has been in that role since the end of the 2011-12 season.) Somehow the union gives up a little more ground,  and the owners stop being ravenous with their avarice.  Let’s say both sides hammer out a compromise by Halloween.  This will give the NHL  plenty of time to promote the Winter Classic (part for the joy of cash, and probably to use it as some sort of dog and pony show to demonstrate the new found unity between the parties.) This year’s Winter Classic will be held at the University of Michigan’s football stadium.  It is not unreasonable to see six digit attendances and a ratings bonanza on both sides of the border.

As of now, both the NHL and the NHLPA  have declined comment.

But what about the teams involved?  No word from the Toronto Maple Leafs camp as of yet.  Jimmy Devellano, Detroit Red Wings senior vice-president said “We’re going forward with (the Winter Classic) at this point in time,” said Devellano. “It’s way too early to start to speculate. It’s at least a month too early to worry about it.” (Then again he did refer to the players as “cattle”. I’m assuming that was tounge-in-cheek.)

Could the owners really be this thick headed to go that far out of their way to tick off millions of hockey fans in North America, and millions more around the world? At this point, I’m willing to believe just about anything that comes out of the NHL office.

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