By Steve Silverman
» More Columns
It’s New Year’s Day and do you know where your Winter Classic is?
No you don’t, because the NHL lockout has stretched into its fifth month.
If both sides don’t come to their senses in the next couple of weeks and we get to a date around Jan. 15 and the lockout is still keeping players from putting on their uniforms, you can say goodbye to the 2012-13 NHL season.
If that happens, it would be particularly painful for the New York Rangers and their fans. The Rangers and head coach John Tortorella have a powerful team and they should be the favorites to win the Stanley Cup in June.
But the Winter Classic may be beyond saving.
If there had been no lockout this year, this would have been the biggest and best of the outdoor events that the NHL has presented.
The Detroit Red Wings were scheduled to host the Toronto Maple Leafs at huge Michigan Stadium and there probably would have been 120,000 fans on hand at the cavernous bowl to celebrate two of the NHL’s Original Six teams.
(By the way, the New Year’s Day weather forecast for Detroit is perfect for hockey. It is 23 degrees and cloudy, which would have made for excellent ice conditions and a sensational afternoon for the players and fans.)
It’s not simply a matter of picking up where the NHL left off a year from now.
When the Winter Classic was canceled in early November, the league said that the 2014 Winter Classic would go back to the Red Wings and the game would be scheduled for Michigan Stadium again.
However, the damage has been done.
The Winter Classic will never be the same and hockey may have abdicated its hold on New Year’s Day.
The NBA has six games scheduled for New Year’s Day this year and all of them are night games. Next year, they could put at least three or four games on during New Year’s Day.
They have seen how successful the Winter Classic was in the TV ratings and they may want to get a piece of that pie.
The real problem for the NHL is college football.
That sport is the one that had diminished New Year’s Day in the first place by spreading out bowl games – many of which are meaningless – throughout the holiday season.
However, when college football institutes four-team championship playoff, that sport is likely to reclaim New Year’s Day as one of its key dates.
That will begin with the 2014 season, meaning New Year’s Day in 2015 may be the day that the two semifinal games are held.
If that’s the case, the NHL can say goodbye to it New Year’s Day ratings bonanza.
That’s just one of the problems that comes from another long lockout. The NHL lost the 2004-05 season to a lockout and the 1994-95 was shortened to 48 games.
They should have been talking months ago and they never should have lost the first three full months of the regular season.
The sport is damaged badly and it may take years – if ever – to undo what Gary Bettman and his hawkish bosses have done to the sport this time around.
Do you think the Winter Classic will ever regain its status as the event to watch on New Year’s day? Share your thoughts below.