Cancellation of Winter Classic Saves Hockey Fans From Leafs Game

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TORONTO – In an unfortunate announcement Friday afternoon, many Canadian hockey fans learned that the Toronto Maple Leafs had been slated to play in the NHL’s annual Winter Classic outdoor game. But thanks to the ongoing NHL labour dispute, that tragedy was averted when the league cancelled the event.

“We know that many fans were concerned that the lockout would end too quickly, so that having to watch the Maple Leafs bungle yet another game remained a distinct possibility,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. “But in this act of good faith, we have called off the Winter Classic before this nightmare could become a reality.”

Hockey fans from across North America reacted to the announcement with shock and discontent.

“I hadn’t heard anything about the Winter Classic yet this year, but when the news came out Friday, it was discouraging,” said Calgary resident Tim Ulster. “Apparently, they think sitting outside freezing your ass off for 3 hours in January while watching the Leafs is something anyone wants to experience. The league isn’t thinking about the fans this would affect.”

“This decision shows the degree of disconnect between the NHL’s top brass and the fans,” ESPN hockey analyst Brent Mayer said. “From having to listen to earmuff-wearing CBC sportscasters continually referring to them as ‘Canada’s team,’ to seeing Brian Burke make excuses for their baffling play in the post-game, watching the Leafs is nobody’s idea of a good time for New Years’ Day. The league was forced to make the right call here.”

For the players, the story is one of heartbreak.

“It was going to be my first Winter Classic,” said despondent Leafs centre Tim Connolly. “We had one opportunity to get out there and phone it in, and now it’s been taken away from us.”

As of Friday, the NHL lockout showed no signs of abating and the cancellation of the Winter Classic resulted in fears that yet another season would be lost, saving Leafs fans from the disappointment of once again missing the playoffs.

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