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Matt Hendricks plays a shot for the Washington Capitals during the 2011 Winter Classic.
Matt Hendricks plays a shot for the Washington Capitals during the 2011 Winter Classic.

NHL: Winter Classic plans frozen out by ongoing labour dispute

The New Year's Day fixture between Detroit and Toronto has been scrapped as the dispute between hockey chiefs and players remains in place.

The traditional Winter Classic hockey event has become the latest casualty of the bitter labour dispute between National Hockey League owners and players.

The New Year's Day game, featuring rival sides the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings, had been scheduled for the University of Michigan's football stadium in Ann Arbor and a potential NHL record crowd of more than 110,000 fans.

But with negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement at a standstill, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly made the announcement that the game was off.

"The logistical demands for staging events of this magnitude made today's decision unavoidable. We simply are out of time," Daly said.

"We are extremely disappointed, for our fans and for all those affected, to have to cancel the Winter Classic and Hockeytown Winter Festival events."

The classic joined hundreds of regular season games already cancelled since the league locked out players in September.

The NHL Players' Association (NHLPA) blamed both on league owners.

"The NHL's decision to cancel the Winter Classic is unnecessary and unfortunate, as was the owners' implementation of the lockout itself," NHLPA executive director Don Fehr said in a statement.

"The fact that the season has not started is a result of a unilateral decision by the owners; the players have always been ready to play while continuing to negotiate in good faith."

Fehr called on the league to make a quick return to the bargaining table.

Many had speculated the Winter Classic would have marked the resumption of NHL play.

Now, with a final deadline for cancelling the entire season looming, perhaps early in the new year, the league could be facing the loss of its second season in eight years.

The season was to start on Oct. 11 and a week ago the league scrapped all games until Nov. 30.

It is the fifth time in 20 years the NHL has been stopped because of a labour dispute. The last was in 2004-05, when the entire season was wiped out.

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