The National Hockey League canceled the Jan. 1 outdoor Winter Classic game at Michigan Stadium as the lockout of players reached its seventh week.
The league previously canceled regular-season contests through Nov. 30, bringing the total of dropped games to 327, or 27 percent of the 82-games-per-team season.
Cancellation of the outdoor game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs, the latest edition of what has become the NHLs showcase for U.S. television audiences, was announced in a statement.
The logistical demands for staging events of this magnitude made todays decision unavoidable, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said. We simply are out of time. We are extremely disappointed.
Donald Fehr, executive director of the NHL Players Association, said the cancellation of the game was unnecessary and unfortunate, as was the owners implementation of the lockout itself.
The NHL had until Friday to cancel the Winter Classic to avoid paying additional fees to the University of Michigan for the rental of its 110,000-seat football stadium in Ann Arbor, the Canadian Press reported Monday. The league will forfeit a $100,000 deposit already paid to the university, according to the report.
Dave Brandon, the schools athletic director, said the contract will remain intact and be shifted to the next Winter Classic, which will be staged at Michigan Stadium.
We knew this was a possibility, but we stayed prepared in the event the labor dispute would get resolved, Brandon said in a statement.
With the Maple Leafs participation, this seasons game was going to feature a Canadian-based team for the first time in the events six-year history, possibly drawing one of the largest viewing audiences of any NHL contest.
The first five Winter Classic games rank among the six most-watched games in league history in the U.S. A record 4.5 million viewers watched the 2011 contest between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.
The previously canceled contests include a Nov. 23 contest between the New York Rangers and the Boston Bruins that was set to be the first nationally televised game of the season on NBC.
Team owners shut down the league when they couldnt reach a collective bargaining agreement with the players union. The league and union last met on Oct. 18 and no new negotiations are scheduled. The leagues most recent offer contained an even revenue split between owners and players. None of the unions three counteroffers was accepted by owners.
The players were locked out Sept. 16, the day after the old collective bargaining agreement expired.