Labatt set to sue NHL over their new exclusive deal with Molson Coors

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With all the excitement that ensued over the NHL signing a massive $375+ million sponsorship deal with Molson Coors brewery today to help boost the coffers of the league, there’s one group that’s not exactly pleased about the whole arrangement.

Labatt Brewery alleges that the NHL made an agreement with them in good faith to renew their sponsorship with the league until 2014 and plans to sue the NHL for reneging on the proposed deal.

Labatt’s vice-president of corporate affairs Charlie Angelakos speaks out saying they didn’t do anything wrong in dealing with the NHL and that beer is serious business when it comes to hockey. (Ed. note: Damn straight it is!)

“From out standpoint, nothing went wrong. We completed legally binding terms of renewal for our sponsorship agreement with the NHL,” Mr. Angelakos said in an e-mailed statement.

“Hockey is an important part of the fabric of Canada and in particular to beer drinkers. Labatt always looks to share in passion with our customers and hockey in Canada is the great passion point. Sharing in this passion gives us new – and ongoing – ways to talk to our customers.”

On a day where it seems like the NHL is about to start rolling in dollars and start spraying all the Molson Canadian they want everywhere to celebrate, it turns out the league will have to rally their army of lawyers together to figure out what exactly they’re going to do about all this other beer they thought they got rid of. We’re sure that with the league switching up from Labatt’s to Molson has nothing to do with the bitter feelings here as that’s Canada’s version of Budweiser vs. Coors.

Wait, Labatt operates under the Anhueser-Busch banner while Molson is with Coors? This shouldn’t be awkward at all.

As for the NHL’s take on this whole mess, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly issued a quick statement to diffuse the situation as best he could.

“Labatt has been and continues to be a terrific partner, but we strongly disagree with their assertion that an agreement was in place for the 2011-2012 NHL season. We have no further comment at this time.”

Someone get a bouncer to separate these guys.

Habs claim Byron off waivers from Flames

Paul Byron
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Montreal added some forward depth on Tuesday, acquiring diminutive forward Paul Byron off waivers from Calgary.

Byron, 26, is a veteran of nearly 150 career NHL games, most coming with the Flames. Despite fairly solid production over the last two years — 40 points in 104 games — he was exposed to waivers on Monday, along with fellow forward Mason Raymond.

(Calgary does have a logjam of players at forward, hence parting ways with Byron and Raymond.)

Byron can play both wing and center but, at 5-foot-7, 153 pounds, is one of the most undersized skaters in the league. Thankfully for him, Montreal has an affinity for undersized forwards, with the likes of Brendan Gallagher (5-foot-9, 184 pounds) and David Desharnais (5-foot-7, 174 pounds) already on the active roster.

Byron could also fill Zack Kassian‘s roster spot. Kassian is currently suspended without pay while undergoing Stage 2 of the NHL’s Substance Abuse program.

Isles claim goalie Berube off waivers

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Jaroslav Halak
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The New York Islanders have claimed goalie Jean-Francois Berube off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings, the club announced today.

Berube won the Calder Cup last season with AHL Manchester, but the 24-year-old has yet to appear in an NHL game.

That the Isles claimed Berube could be evidence that Jaroslav Halak will not be ready to start the season after all.

If that’s the case, Berube would back up Thomas Greiss, with Stephon Williams expected to go to the AHL.

The Isles open their regular season Friday at home versus the Blackhawks, then play the next day in Chicago.