Frustrating news from the NHL  As NHL lockout drags, Winter Classic to be canceled, source says

I'm sorry -- that's disastrous.  The NHL and the players cannot let this happen.

There have been plenty of distractions for the casual hockey fan; for me, for example, the foremost item on my viewing agenda recently was the MLB playoffs / World Series.

Now baseball season is over and I'm realizing what my hockey-loving friends have been stressing about all along.  This hockey lockout is no joke and things are dire.  The NHL's top players (Alex Ovechkin and Patrick Kane come to mind first) are finding other rinks on which to spend their time; they know as well as anyone that there's no end in sight.  There could very well not be a 2012-2013 NHL season.

I'm not writing to take sides.

I'm simply writing to say that there better be a good reason canceling the Winter Classic.

With the exception of certain diehard cities, provinces, and states, the NHL has no traction in the sports culture outside of two events:  the Winter Classic on New Year's day and the Stanley Cup playoffs in April/May.  That's it.  Blame this upon whatever you'd like -- lack of coverage, ESPN myopia (or a vendetta after not getting the TV deal), a bias toward football -- but no casual fans care about anything else NHL-oriented.

For the sport to be healthy, the NHL's Winter Classic needs to be the equivalent of the NFL on Thanksgiving, the NBA on Christmas, and Major League Baseball on the 4th of July.

Last year, the NBA worked overtime to cut a deal with the players so they could open the season on Christmas.  It worked, and worked big-time.  If the NHL and its players care, it would do the same for January 1st.

But I just don't see the urgency -- and if they don't care, then neither will I.


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