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Oh, swell: NHL can cancel Winter Classic at any time up to January 1st

Via RedWingsFeed, the New York Times’ Jeff Z. Klein reports that the NHL ensured that, should it lock out its players, it can back out of the Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at any time, with only minimal financial penalties resulting from said cancellation:

The N.H.L. can cancel the Jan. 1 Winter Classic at 115,000-seat Michigan Stadium as late as Jan. 1, the day of the game, because of a work stoppage “arising from the lack of a collective bargaining agreement,” the contract between the league and the University of Michigan shows.

The league would forfeit only $100,000 of its $3 million stadium rental fee, according to the contract. The rest of the fee would be refunded by the university.

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.

Klein says that the NHL offers no guarantees nor refunds should the Red Wings choose not to hold the Great Lakes Invitational, the Griffins-Marlies AHL game or its slate of three OHL games at Comerica Park, but it’s covered its own ass regarding the Winter Classic:

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.

“It’s standard for us to include force majeure provisions in virtually all of our contracts,” said Bill Daly, the N.H.L. deputy commissioner, “and if we anticipated the possibility of a work stoppage in particular, it certainly wouldn’t have been unusual.”
...
According to the contract, the N.H.L. will have the use of Michigan Stadium from Dec. 1, when construction of the ice rink on the stadium floor can begin, through Jan. 9, when removal of the rink must be finished. The game can be played only on Jan. 1 or, in case of bad weather, Jan. 2. There is no provision in the contract for the Winter Classic to be played at Ann Arbor later in 2013 because of a work stoppage or for any other reason, and Daly said last week that there was no other agreement to play the game later in the year.

The N.H.L.-Michigan contract stipulates that the league forfeit $100,000 if it cancels the Winter Classic before Nov. 3. On Nov. 3 or after, a cancellation would cost the league $100,000 and any expenses incurred by the university in connection to the game.

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Comments

Ducksworth's avatar

What a fantastic off-season this has been and it keeps getting better and better… *vomit*

Posted by Ducksworth from Brownstown, MI on 08/13/12 at 01:58 AM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

Soooo they’d get refunded their rental fee…  buuuuut they wont refund fans tickets…..


If that actually happens.  I will quit NHL hockey cold turkey and start learning Ruskie.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 08/13/12 at 03:11 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

They have to refund fans’ tickets. The question is *when* they would issue refunds. Immediately, or after a potential lockout’s over?

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 08/13/12 at 03:23 AM ET

Itrusteddrrahmani's avatar

As someone who just rec’d the opportunity to buy tickets last week and was overly excited, F U Bettman. Yes I blame every problem on him.

Posted by Itrusteddrrahmani from Nyc by way of A2 on 08/13/12 at 03:59 AM ET

NIVO's avatar

What a fantastic off-season this has been and it keeps getting better and better… *vomit*

Posted by Ducksworth from Brownstown, MI on 08/12/12 at 11:58 PM ET

im of the same opinion…...it just gets better and better. Thx Bettman, and thx owners. You are keeping one swell guy in power to do your bidding. And it IS awesome that you throw money at players like candy, and then bitch about how much it costs you. Way to go, and heres a fork to eat the cake with too.

Posted by NIVO from underpants gnome village on 08/13/12 at 04:02 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

As someone noted on Twitter, the ridiculous service fees those of you who bought Winter Classic tickets probably won’t be refunded, so one way or another, the league’s going to make its money.

I would imagine that if the Wings have to cancel their events, they will refund ticket prices as well. I haven’t heard the same complains about service fees that I did with the NHL tacking on another $38 for the privilege of attending the Winter Classic.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 08/13/12 at 04:19 AM ET

Itrusteddrrahmani's avatar

Service fee was 40 bucks, and for each WC ticket you bought you had a buy a ticket to the GLI/Alumni showdown as well.  So while each WC ticket was 129, i bought two and ended up paying 374. That’s a pretty unreasonable fee, considering all theyre doing is sending me a ticket in the mail.

Posted by Itrusteddrrahmani from Nyc by way of A2 on 08/13/12 at 04:33 AM ET

Alan's avatar

I think the important question here, is this:

Let’s assume we lose another season of NHL hockey. We know that the Winter Classic will get canceled. Does this mean a Wings vs Leafs classic happens *next* season, or what?

Posted by Alan from Atlanta on 08/13/12 at 05:41 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

Yes. The Winter Classic would be “rolled back” to the 13-14 season. The markets are too big and the moneymaking possibilities are too high to just move on to the next site.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 08/13/12 at 05:52 AM ET

John's avatar

Another question:  Would the Winter Festival at Comerica Park be cancelled?  If I were Mike Illitch, I would totally put it on regardless of a work stoppage or not.

Posted by John from Pittsburgh, PA (Wings fan for life!) on 08/13/12 at 07:23 AM ET

Avatar

Oh great. A couple of friends & I got tickets and have booked flights, accom etc for our trip to Michigan. What the hell are we supposed to do if it gets cancelled On Jan 1?

Gary are you going to refund the $3,000 for our flights????

Posted by steviey11 from Sydney, Australia on 08/13/12 at 10:44 AM ET

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Oh the irony of Mr. Bettman and Mr. Illitch’s relationship. It keeps on giving and giving!

Posted by timbits on 08/13/12 at 11:23 AM ET

TreKronor's avatar

Hmmm…I paid $80 in ticket fees for four tickets.

I’d have to imagine The Wings would still throw the party at Comerica, at least with the Griffins/Marlies, OHL games, and the Great Lakes Invitational if the Classic gets cancelled.  I hope I don’t have to find out though.

Posted by TreKronor on 08/13/12 at 12:25 PM ET

Avatar

I read this as suggesting that if the league locks out the players (which Bettman said will happen there is no CBA by Sep 15), they probably won’t immediately cancel the 2013 Winter Classic, hoping that the new CBA gets worked out before Jan 1. If not, they have the flexibility to cancel it any time up to Jan 1, which only made sense to build into their contract for Michigan Stadium.

The league would forfeit only $100,000 of its $3 million stadium rental fee, according to the contract. The rest of the fee would be refunded by the university.

Fortunately for the league, the school loses pretty much nothing if the Winter Classic is canceled. Otherwise, I expect there would be a penalty for canceling too close to Jan 1.

Posted by bleep bloop on 08/13/12 at 12:48 PM ET

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I was thinking about selling a kidney and going. Not anymore.

Posted by Herm from the office on 08/13/12 at 12:48 PM ET

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Obviously the league wouldn’t cancel the WC right away, instead giving themselves deadline-over-deadline, like the NBA did. Also, like the NBA, I wouldn’t be surprised if the WC served as the season opener.

Either way, it’s too much of a risk for me to go.

Posted by Herm from the office on 08/13/12 at 12:51 PM ET

Avatar

What great business. Thanks Gary.

Posted by Moskie from Denver on 08/13/12 at 12:57 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

Thanks, Gary.Ass.  I wouldn’t buy a ticket now if I could.  And as someone said, plane tickets, etc.  Geez.  A lot of fans could get royally screwed.  But as long as the league gets its money and Bettman gets his $8 million salary, right?

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 08/13/12 at 01:43 PM ET

calquake's avatar

I was thinking about selling a kidney and going. Not anymore.

Herm that will only cover the service fees.

Posted by calquake on 08/13/12 at 02:34 PM ET

Avatar

I dare he and the league to do it and watch the league die. This offseason has really pulled me away from the NHL as a whole. I’ll always love the Wings, but the league operates with no regard for the fans. If any games are missed this year, I’ll take my hockey money to the AHL/ECHL/NCAA level and never spend another cent on the NHL.

Posted by Jeremy on 08/13/12 at 03:23 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

Oh great. A couple of friends & I got tickets and have booked flights, accom etc for our trip to Michigan. What the hell are we supposed to do if it gets cancelled On Jan 1?
Posted by steviey11 from Sydney, Australia on 08/13/12 at 08:44 AM ET

Just come anyway and while you’re here anyway you can still get some of the word’s best pizza here. 

Pizza Papalis downtown

Posted by RWBill from cruising Brush Street with creepy Rob Lowe. on 08/13/12 at 03:30 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

“world’s best pizza”, and that is Word.

Posted by RWBill from cruising Brush Street with creepy Rob Lowe. on 08/13/12 at 03:33 PM ET

calquake's avatar

Just come anyway and while you’re here anyway you can still get some of the word’s best pizza here.

I’m assuming you’re joking with steviey11 Bill because, unless I’m a 1% er, $3000 plus to come get a pizza (even if it’s the world’s best) is a bit over the top.  I truly feel for people who are traveling long distances to go to the Classic only to have it snatched away from them by greed.  People have a right to certain expectations when they are encouraged to attend an event like this.  Unseen developments are one thing but to potentially wait until the day of the event to cancel is cruel at best.  I know I was considering attending surrounding events even if I didn’t go to the Classic, but not now.

Posted by calquake on 08/13/12 at 05:01 PM ET

Da lil Guy's avatar

Jan. 1 is an important date because it’s when the league starts to hurt more than the players (loss of the winter classic would likely mean the loss of the weekly NBC contract that it launches). If Bettman can’t convince the players he has a mandate to hold out past this date, and Fehr convinces the players that it’s in their interest to hold out to this date, Bettman loses a lot of bargaining power.

Posted by Da lil Guy from Guelph, Ontario on 08/13/12 at 05:13 PM ET

Avatar

I think that the key date is US Thanksgiving. That is when NBC is scheduled to start broadcasting games on it’s various networks. It is also when HBO is scheduled to start filming for 24/7. If they aren’t playing by early November, expect the league to start feeling pressure on other fronts than just the NHLPA.

Posted by Golly from the Tubes on 08/13/12 at 06:07 PM ET

shazam88's avatar

Jan. 1 is an important date because it’s when the league starts to hurt more than the players (loss of the winter classic would likely mean the loss of the weekly NBC contract that it launches). If Bettman can’t convince the players he has a mandate to hold out past this date, and Fehr convinces the players that it’s in their interest to hold out to this date, Bettman loses a lot of bargaining power.

Posted by Da lil Guy from Ottawa on 08/13/12 at 03:13 PM ET

Good post, though just to geek out on this a bit, NBC’s hockey broadcasts last year began around US Thanksgiving and I think they were doing the same this year. But yeah your point is well taken in that the financial pressure on the owners will be minimal in the early going.

Also, while I know that there’s some competition to hold the Winter Classic and that places the league in a position of strength, those negotiating on behalf of the venues really, really should have insisted on escalating liquidated damages, perhaps for cancellation 30, 15 and 7 days before the event.  Seriously, this is a stupid drafted clause if that’s all they get for a last second fu…not that it’d make a huge difference for fans if the venue(s) received a few million for a later cancellation. Oh well.

Posted by shazam88 from SoCal on 08/13/12 at 06:20 PM ET

Da lil Guy's avatar

There’s the Black Friday game, but I think January kicks off the ‘game of the week’ nationally televised schedule. I defer to the knowledge of those who actually live in the US regarding the schedule.

Posted by Da lil Guy from Guelph, Ontario on 08/13/12 at 07:14 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

No, I’m not kidding.  Pizza Papalis deep dish meat lover’s is worth the $3000 trip, and the 45 minute wait while it bakes.

Posted by RWBill from cruising Brush Street with creepy Rob Lowe. on 08/13/12 at 08:07 PM ET

calquake's avatar

No, I’m not kidding.  Pizza Papalis deep dish meat lover’s is worth the $3000 trip, and the 45 minute wait while it bakes.

Posted by RWBill from hiding indoors from Virginia heat. on 08/13/12 at 06:07 PM ET

Either you’re a pizzaholic or have wayyyy too much discretionary income.  LOL  Or maybe a little of both.

Posted by calquake on 08/13/12 at 08:42 PM ET

thethirdcoast's avatar

I feel like the NHL would be done as a viable enterprise if they slapped their fans in the face via last minute Winter Classic cancellation. Even the hardcore fans would abandon the sport in droves.

Posted by thethirdcoast from Algiers, DZ on 08/13/12 at 08:47 PM ET

Avatar

I’ve been a hardcore fan for more years than I can count, have made it to 22 of the NHL arenas (so far) and have been lucky enough to score tickets to all of the Winter Classic games.  If there is a lockout this season and the Winter Classic is cancelled, I will invest more of my time in the OHL and AHL and not attend another NHL game.  While the billionaires argue with the millionaires, they need to remember those of us that save our hard earned money to watch these events can just as easily spend it elsewhere.

Posted by blue liner on 08/20/12 at 11:19 AM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.