Yesterday was the deadline for the NHL and its players to reach agreement on the latest labor proposal by owners to end the league’s lockout, The deal could have salvaged a full season of games, but with that timeline shot the league today canceled games through November 30 — a swath of matchups that includes a November 23 game between the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins that was supposed to drop the puck on NBC’s nationally televised slate this year. To date, that makes 326 games lost, or 26.5% of the league’s 82-game season. There have been rumors that the NHL Winter Classic on January 1 as well as the All-Star Game are being cut today, though the league has not said so. The Winter Classic is a blast to watch and has served the league well in broadening its fan base, with the game played outdoors on New Year’s Day in a big venue usually in wintery conditions that — at least on its oft-slushy surface — evokes an old-timey feel that works well on TV especially amid the hype of college football bowl season. This year’s matchup between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings is set for the University of Michigan’s massive football stadium, where a crowd of more than 100,000 is expected.
NBC Sports signed a record $2 billion, 10-year TV rights deal with the NHL that was to begin this year with 100 games on NBC Sports Group networks — including the first-ever national game on Thanksgiving Friday. The sides haven’t met since October 18 after the lockout was imposed September 16.