I’ve brought this up in a previous story, but the significance of this can’t be stressed enough – The 2013 Winter Classic at the haven of the Michigan Wolverines between the Wings and Leafs is a showcase game that will not only be quality hockey, but will provide a great amount of needed financial support to all parties involved. Due to the most recent delay of work in the NHL (which I chronicled the nature of and the premature graying effect it has had on my hair), the game is now once again in jeopardy – and not in the Alex Trebek sense, although I hear he IS a pretty big fan of the Leafs.
It is absolutely necessary and imperative for the ownership groups and the players to reconcile before New Year’s for both fan appeal and for purposes of revenue. Of the latter aspect, here’s why the cancellation of this game will cause heart palpitations all around North America.
1.) TV ratings:
Outdoor games have progressively replaced the All-Star games as the most significant viewer event of the regular season. Last season’s ratings for the match-up between the Blueshirts and Flyers at Citizens Bank Park were a step down from previous classics due to the odd hour and the push back to a work day, but 2013 is showing to be better prepared. Surely, the shares will soar if all goes well. In addition, the Canadian market is where a lot of the money is, and this is the first time a Canadian team has participated in the Winter Classic (the Heritage Classic, which has been held in 2003 and 2011, has been the outdoor spectacle for Canadian teams, with the latter between Montreal and Calgary having actually eclipsed all previous outdoor NHL events despite competing with the Caps vs. Pens match-up at Heinz Field). The Canadian market, most especially in Ontario, will be bound to hold heightened interest and the CBC will roll out the big guns. With this set-up, all will be merry.
2.) Alumni events draw in the nostalgics:
Despite the odds being against any members of the last Cup-winning Leafs being participants in the old-timers game (for blatant reasons – the number 1967 speaks volumes), there are going to be huge names involved regardless. Mandatory participants should include names such as Darryl Sittler (he may be getting up there, but as long as he still has his stride, his inclusion needs to happen), Darcy Tucker, and Doug Gilmour. (Mats Sundin has already declared his choice not to participate unfortunately). For the Wings, the only recently retired legends alone make everything star-studded. Yzerman may not be able to make it due to his commitments with Tampa Bay, but an at least partial Russian Five reunion (albeit with Konstantinov serving strictly as an ambassador – some wounds in life just don’t heal) looks very likely. Robitaille, Vernon, and Draper; along with older players such as Coffey and Ciccarelli, are also on the list of probable participants. With this gathering, the older audience is bound to gather and the appeal will be very broad.
3) Reviving the struggling Leafs franchise:
Any fan of an Original Six team recognizes the cruciality of keeping all of them competitive. The executive orders of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd. have given hockey fans the incorrect impression that Mr. Tanenbaum is their version of Bill Wirtz – the real life Daddy Warbucks who couldn’t care less about team success. With this center stage, a renaissance in Toronto might (key word: might) not be far off. Although maybe they should trade away Kessel…
4) MY GOD THE TICKET REVENUES:
Remember? If you’re a big fan of NCAA hockey, of course you do.
2010 – Michigan Wolverines vs. Michigan State Spartans at the Big House. Attendance: 113,411 fans announced. Can you imagine what will happen this time around? The shared revenue will be Apple product-esque for all parties involved. This can’t be argued against.
5) Funding for the university talent pool:
The Entry Draft keeps the league moving forward. With the university getting their share of whatever money rolls in, further funding for the program is bound to be put forth. When this happens, more of the great talents of the Wolverines will have doors opened to the pros and this will be good for the sport in several capacities. What’s bad about that?
With all of this in mind, it’s clear the priority should be getting the puck dropped by New Year’s. These negotiations need to make quick progress – or else all will just fall through the cracks.