There was a point in time where this might have been unthinkable. On Friday, the Winter Classic became just another casualty of the NHL lockout.
The league made the move to cancel the New Year's Day event nearly two full months in advance due to an imminent financial commitment with the University of Michigan -- the site of this year's game -- according to Tim Panaccio's story. The Associated Press reports (via Puck Daddy) the league will re-schedule the Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at The Big House for 2014.
Even though we heard this was likely coming over a week ago, it's still difficult not to be a little shocked. Before the lockout ever got underway, and even in its infancy, most observers felt the NHL would be unwilling to miss the Classic. It's a showcase event for the sport that generates tens of millions of dollars for the league and host city.
Now that it's gone, the landscape of the labor dispute has been altered dramatically. With the Winter Classic once believed to be untouchable, there was a sense that the NHL inevitably would resume play by January 1. Obviously that was not the case, so what milestone remains to drive the owners and union toward a resolution?
It's only November, but there is no end on the horizon. The players seem to be united in their desire to have the contracts they signed honored in full, and the owners aren't even listening to any offer that does not include a rollback on salaries. At what point do we reach the point of no return, and lose an entire season for the second time in less than a decade?