The annual New Year’s Day outdoor game this year was supposed to pit the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings at the University of Michigan, where upwards of 100,000 fans were expected for the NBC-televised event. The game gives the league some of its highest visibility — but now not as much as the current NHL labor dispute, which already has claimed all regular season games through November 30 since the owners locked out players September 16. ESPN reports that the NHL had a contract with the university that requires the league to pay for expenses incurred if the event was canceled later than November 2, and $250,000 of the $3 million rental fee for the stadium was due today. It’s estimated that 400,000 were expected in the region for the January 1 event, with an economic benefit of an estimated $75 million.
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