One of the NHL's cornerstone events over the last few years is off the regular season schedule, as the league announced the cancellation of the 2013 Winter Classic on Friday.
The move had been speculated for some time, as the league's payment plan for use of The Big House at the University of Michigan calls for $250,000 to be paid to the school on Nov. 2. The rest of the payment schedule was to have $1 million paid on Dec. 7 and on Dec. 28 and $650,000 on Jan. 18.
"The logistical demands for staging events of this magnitude made today's decision unavoidable. We simply are out of time," said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly in a statement. "We are extremely disappointed, for our fans and for all those affected, to have to cancel the Winter Classic and Hockeytown Winter Festival events."
The NHL has already cancelled regular season games through the end of the month. A total of 326 regular-season games - 26.5 percent of the season - from Oct. 11 through Nov. 30 have been wiped out.
This year's Winter Classic between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings was billed as the biggest in the event's six-year history.
Organizers were expecting a crowd that would eclipse the world record of 104,173 who attended the "Big Chill" NCAA game at the University of Michigan in 2010 and an increased number of secondary events - including alumni, junior, college and American Hockey Leagues games - were slated for a second outdoor venue at Comerica Park in Detroit.
The NHL also announced it plans to hold the next Winter Classic - between the Leafs and Red Wings - at Michigan Stadium should the league finalize a new collective bargaining agreement with the NHL Players' Association.
"The NHL's decision to cancel the 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic is unnecessary and unfortunate, as was the owners' implementation of the lockout itself," said NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr in a statement. "The fact that the season has not started is a result of a unilateral decision by the owners; the players have always been ready to play while continuing to negotiate in good faith. We look forward to the league's return to the bargaining table, so that the parties can find a way to end the lockout at the earliest possible date, and get the game back on the ice for the fans."