Was canceling the Winter Classic what CBA negotiations needed?

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For some, the cancelation of the 2013 Winter Classic was the worst moment of the lockout.

But could it also be the most important?

Friday’s scrapping of the NHL’s annual outdoor game was met with doom and gloom. The Winter Classic is, after all, the league’s signature regular season event and a television ratings bonanza.

Canceling an event of this nature was significant. In addition to the public relations nightmare and lost viewership, an estimated economic impact of $30-$35 million fell by the wayside.

So too did the Hockeytown Winter Festival and, at the risk of getting all schmaltzy on you, the joy and excitement of the 80,000-90,000 people that had already purchased tickets.

The impact of the cancelation resonated with players. Red Wings defenseman Ian White, who was set to participate in the Winter Classic, said as much to the Windsor Star:

“If [Gary Bettman’s] willing to cancel that, I don’t know why he’d want to play a season after that, because that’s the highlight of the year,” he explained. “So if he’s willing to throw away that game, then the balance of the season, I would think, is definitely on the line.”

Bettman’s reputation precedes him in these instances. This is the third lockout of his 19-year tenure as NHL commissioner, and he remains the only commissioner in North American pro sports to lose an entire season to a work stoppage.

Fear that scrapping the Winter Classic would lead to a canceled season might’ve been very real for players. Perhaps that’s why, during Thursday’s conference call, NHLPA members expressed they wanted their leadership to do more negotiating.

Something else to consider…

We’ve seen past instances where labor negotiations were kickstarted by a significant event — a recent example came during the NFL-NFLRA lockout, which started in June and lasted nearly four full months, with replacement officials working all four weeks of the preseason and 48 regular season games.

Despite both sides appearing entrenched in their respective positions and far from a deal, the work stoppage was solved in 48 hours after a highly publicized incident during Seattle’s 14-12 victory over Green Bay on Monday Night Football.

A controversial, game-deciding touchdown call by a replacement official was roundly criticized — on-air, ESPN color commentator Jon Gruden called it “tragic and comical” — and within days, the regular officiating crews were back working games.

Now back to hockey.

On Friday, the Winter Classic was canceled.

Within 48 hours, the following happened:

— News leaked of the NHL making concessions to its “Make Whole” policy.

— NHL commissioner Bill Daly met with NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr for a lengthy discussion that “covered a lot of ground.”

— Reports surfaced that the NHL and NHLPA were set to resume meetings this week.

All of which begs the question: Did the lockout just have its Golden Tate moment?

Expansion draft will force Ducks to make some big decisions

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Bob Murray managed to keep the Anaheim Ducks together for a shot at the Stanley Cup.

But after losing to Nashville in the Western Conference Final, Anaheim’s general manager will now have to make some big decisions — especially with the expansion draft looming.

If the Ducks decide to protect seven forwards and three defensemen, the blue line will definitely be worth watching. Hampus Lindholm will be protected for sure, and Shea Theodore and Brandon Montour are each exempt. But that only leaves two spots for Sami Vatanen, Kevin Bieksa, Cam Fowler, and Josh Manson.

Bieksa, 35, has a no-movement clause, so unless the Ducks find a way to get around that, they’ll need to protect him. (Chances are, they’ll seek a way around it, either via trade or buyout or just convincing him to waive.)

Fowler, meanwhile, only has one year left on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent. And after the season he just had, with 39 points in 80 games, the 25-year-old won’t be cheap to re-sign. For that reason, it’s possible Murray may choose to shop Fowler instead. Or perhaps it’s Vatanen that goes on the block.

Yes, there is the option to protect four defensemen and four forwards. But Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler all have NMCs, and the Ducks won’t want to expose Rickard Rakell or Jakob Silfverberg.

In goal, the Ducks have John Gibson under club control for years to come, but they’ll need to choose a backup. Jonathan Bernier is an unrestricted free agent, and even though he played well during the regular season, his performance against the Predators wasn’t great. Murray may want to at least consider his options there.

Related: Fowler surprised he wasn’t traded

Carlyle says Ducks were dealt ‘tough hand’ by schedule-makers

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Call it sour grapes if you wish, but Randy Carlyle thinks the Anaheim Ducks got screwed by the NHL’s schedule-maker.

The head coach launched his complaint last night after his Ducks fell to the Nashville Predators in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final.

“I don’t think we played poorly in the series,” said Carlyle. “I think that the toughest part I have about the whole thing is that this was our seventh game in 13 days.

“Now, there’s various reasons for that, but I think there’s got to be some consideration in the scheduling in the future between series. We finished on a Wednesday and had to open again on Friday, whereas other teams had to open on Saturday. An extra day would have given us a chance to recover. And we know how tough these games are. And that was a tough hand that was dealt to us.”

The “other” team to which Carlyle was referring is Pittsburgh. The Penguins beat Washington in Game 7 of the second round on May 10, then opened against Ottawa on May 13.

The Ducks, on the other hand, knocked out Edmonton in Game 7, also on May 10, then had to start against Nashville on May 12.

Fatigue may, indeed, have been a factor early in the series against Nashville. In Game 1, the Ducks were badly outshot, 46-29, and lost, 3-2, in overtime.

Carlyle said afterwards that the extra rest had made a difference for the Preds, who’d eliminated the Blues in six and gone four days without a game.

Ducks forward Sorensen signs in Swedish League

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Nick Sorensen, the forward taken 45th overall by Anaheim in 2013, has opted to return to Europe and sign a two-year pact with SHL club Linkoping, the team announced on Tuesday.

Sorensen, 22, returned to North America this season after spending ’14-15 and ’15-16 in Sweden (the latter with Linkoping, so this is a homecoming of sorts).

A former Quebec League standout, Sorensen impressed during training camp and made the Ducks’ opening-night roster, appearing in five games before being dispatched to AHL San Diego.

“Every game, every practice, every day for me, it’s a look to try to stay here,” Sorensen said back in October, per the Daily News. “Even if I play zero, one, five or 20 games, I’m not going to get comfortable up here. It’s the best league in the world.

“I’m just going to try to prove to them every day I want to be here.”

With the Gulls, Sorensen had 10 goals and 22 points in 48 games. He also chipped in with another four in eight playoff contests, but did suffer an injury during the postseason.

Sorensen was a pending RFA, having just wrapped the last year of his entry-level deal.

 

Sens owner: ‘very disturbing’ that tonight’s game may not sell out

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Entire rows in the upper deck of the Canadian Tire Centre still haven’t been sold for tonight’s Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final between the Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Not surprisingly, the specter of a non-sellout for one of the biggest home games in franchise history has the Senators’ owner rather concerned.

“It’s very disturbing,” Eugene Melnyk told Postmedia, “however, knowing the players and coaches they will be trying their hardest for Ottawa.”

The Senators’ attendance has been a big story throughout these playoffs. In the second round, a crowd of just 16,744 was announced for Game 1 against the New York Rangers.

It was thought the story would go away once the conference final started. And for Games 3 and 4, capacity crowds were, indeed, announced.

But with no opportunity for the Sens to advance to the Stanley Cup Final tonight, it’s possible the building may not be full.

Via Ticketmaster, the blue dots represent unsold seats, while the pink dots are tickets available for resale: