NHL, Labatts and the ‘monster deal’ that got away

June 6, 2011

contract, Health & Safety

The Vancouver Canucks are up 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Finals on an overtime goal scored by Alex Burrows 11 seconds into the extra period. Burrows had distinguished himself the previous game by inadvertently masticating upon and potentially dislocating or amputating Patrice Bergon’s phalange. In other words, Burrows bit Bergon’s finger.

Such bizarre incidents (bizarre because they’re condemned as classless and gutless – notwithstanding that they typically occur in the context of players ‘fashwashing’ one another in a scrum which begs the inane question, what was Bergon’s finger doing in Burrows’ mouth in the first place? – whereas fighting, egregious hits to the head and concussions are considered normal and condoned) occasionally occur in the NHL. The most infamous incident occurred in the 1989 Stanley Cup Final when Claude Lemieux bit Jim Peplinski ‘s finger, eliciting the quote,  ‘I didn’t know they allowed cannibalism in the NHL.’

Regardless, Burrows avoided suspension by the NHL because the league found no conclusive evidence that he intentionally bit Bergon’s finger. Burrows presumably chomped down on the errant finger as part of an involuntary gag reflex.

To quote OMC, ‘How bizarre, how bizarre.’

Meanwhile, the NHL’s $375-million sponsorship with Molson-Coors was rejected three days ago by an Ontario Superior Court Judge who ruled the league had reneged on its deal with the company’s archrival, Labatt’s. The decision by Judge Frank Newbould tosses out the most lucrative deal in NHL history. It was described as ‘a monster deal’ by NHL chief operating officer John Collins when it was unveiled in February 2011.

The Ontario Superior Court ruled Friday in favour of Labatt’s accusation that it already had an agreement in place with the NHL before the League committed to a $375-million sponsorship deal with arch-rivals Molson Coors. ‘In my view the NHL should not be entitled to profit from its breach of its agreement with Labatt, Newbould J. said. ‘Labatt should be entitled to its bargain and to its unique marketing position resulting from the agreement to be the Canadian sponsor of the NHL for the next three years.’

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