The NHL could cancel the Winter Classic as late as the day of the game, The New York Times' Jeff Z. Klein reported on Monday. That means if a lockout occurs, the Winter Classic wouldn't immediately be in peril, because the league could get back nearly all of the $3 million rental fee at Michigan Stadium. From Klein's report:
The contract provisions give the league some leeway for salvaging its showcase event should a lockout delay the start of the 2012-13 season, enabling the N.H.L. to hold the Winter Classic even if a lockout is settled in late December. [...]
The N.H.L.’s contract with Michigan, approved by the university’s board of regents on Feb. 9, contains provisions that treat a work stoppage in a way similar to a “force majeure” cancellation brought about by act of God, riot, weather, disaster or any other cause beyond the league’s control.
Next year's Winter Classic, scheduled for Jan. 1, would pit the Detroit Red Wings against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Klein reported that a lockout looks "increasingly likely" as the NHL Players Association prepares to present a counteroffer to the owners' proposal on Tuesday. In July, the NHL proposed, among other items, a 20 percent reduction of players' share of revenues, 24 percent reduction in salaries and limitations on players' free agency.
The current collective bargaining agreement expires on Sept. 15, and the season is scheduled to start on Oct. 11. The Times notes that even if a lockout occurs, the Winter Classic could pressure both sides into coming to an agreement because of the popularity and millions of dollars of revenue that come with the annual event.