Chalk up another NHL game lost to the lockout.
Only this time, it wasn't just any contest as the league canceled its in-season signature event Friday when it axed the 2013 Winter Classic that was to be played in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The Jan. 1 game pitting the Red Wings against the Maple Leafs at the University of Michigan's football stadium was expected to draw more than 100,000 fans and produce millions of dollars in revenue for the NHL and also provide an economic boost to the Detroit area with an expected 400,000 people attending events associated with the Winter Classic.
"The logistical demands for staging events of this magnitude made (Friday's) decision unavoidable," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. "We simply are out of time. We are extremely disappointed, for our fans and for all those affected, to have to cancel the Winter Classic and Hockeytown Winter Festival events."
The plan had been to put a hockey rink in the middle of the cavernous stadium nicknamed "The Big House" -- and another at Comerica Park in Detroit for a festival that included a series of events from Dec. 15-31 featuring games involving teams from the NHL, NCAA, AHL, Ontario Hockey League, high school and local minor hockey leagues.
"The NHL's decision to cancel the (game) is unnecessary and unfortunate, as was the owners' implementation of the lockout itself," NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said. "The fact the season has not started is a result of a unilateral decision by the owners; the players have always been ready to play while continuing to negotiate in good faith."
The two sides haven't met since the NHL rejected three union proposals Oct. 18, but there are reports formal negotiations will resume in the next couple of days. In addition to the Winter Classic, the schedule through Nov. 30 already has been canceled, making an 82-game regular season all but impossible.
"I'm almost in disbelief, really," Wings forward Danny Cleary told mlive.com. "I think everybody was looking forward to the Winter Classic. It was going to be such a great event, not only for downtown Detroit with all the events, but in Ann Arbor, setting a record attendance.
"That stings a little bit."
The NHL said the next Winter Classic -- whenever that may be--will be in Ann Arbor and feature the same Original Six franchises.