Is the NHL’s ‘monster deal’ with Molson Coors in danger after Labatt’s wins case against league?

The NHL seemed like it hit gold (or at least amber?) with its sudsy sponsorship deal with Molson Coors/Miller Coors from earlier this year. The adult beverage giant paid more than $375 million to be the official beer of the NHL in February, making it the largest sponsorship deal in the league’s history.

That sounded like a boozy slam dunk for the NHL, but beer rival Labatt’s wasn’t too happy with that relationship. The company decided to sue the league, claiming that the NHL made a good faith agreement with them to renew their sponsorship with the league until 2014.

(For those of you who enjoy squabbles between huge beer manufacturers, it’s probably relevant to note that Labatt’s is associated with Anheuser-Busch. So one could say that this qualifies as another battle between Budweiser and Coors.)

The Associated Press reports that The Ontario Superior Court agreed with Labatt’s argument in the case today, putting what NHL chief operating officer John Collins called a “monster deal” in serious doubt. We’ll have to wait and see if the league will be forced to scrap that monster deal, just pay some “damages” to Labatt’s or some other alternative, but either way it’s a headache for the NHL.

If you take the Anheuser-Busch/Labatt’s perspective, it seems like they’ll be able to stick with the NHL through the 2013-2014 season.

“We are pleased that Budweiser’s sponsorship of the NHL will continue,” Charlie Angelakos, Labatt’s vice president of corporate affairs, said in a statement. “Budweiser and hockey are a natural fit. We look forward to a very productive relationship with the league through the 2013-14 season and are actively looking for opportunities on a team and grass-roots level to reinforce that connection.”

Labatt took on its beer rival in February when it filed a notice of application to the Ontario Superior Court asking the court to toss out the NHL’s new agreement with Coors.

Budweiser is owned by Anheuser-Busch, which is Labatt’s corporate parent. Anheuser-Busch is also the sponsor for 22 of the 24 NHL teams currently based in the United States.

The news comes during hectic period for the NHL. Besides being in the midst of the Stanley Cup finals between Vancouver and Boston, the league is also dealing with the pending sale and relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg.

Struggling Sabre Tyler Ennis out with upper-body injury

Tyler Ennis, James Wisniewski
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Tyler Ennis can probably relate with the Buffalo Sabres’ opponent on Wednesday, as he’s struggling almost as much as the Nashville Predators.

Perhaps some of that has to do with health?

Whether that’s the case or not, Ennis is out for the Sabres tonight, as the team announced that he’s dealing with an upper-body injury.

The Buffalo News discussed Ennis’ struggles in this article.

“I’d say he’s pressing too much. You can’t make those plays in every situation and in every point you touch the puck,” Dan Bylsma said to the Buffalo News. “ … He’s just got to simplify his game. He is a special player who can make those plays, but he can’t be trying to do it every time he touches the puck.”

He’ll need to wait a while to start getting things together, anyway.

WATCH LIVE: Wednesday Night Rivalry (Flyers-Islanders; Blackhawks-Sharks)

Ryan White, Matt Martin
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You can check out tonight’s Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader on NBCSN, and you can also stream them online.

Here are the handy links for the two contests.

First, the New York Islanders host the Philadelphia Flyers.


After that, the Chicago Blackhawks visit the San Jose Sharks.


Braun out with upper-body injury; Zubrus to make Sharks debut

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The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.

Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.

“Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”

Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.

Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.

Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.

Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer

Johansen calls trade rumblings ‘weird,’ says relationship with Torts is ‘great’

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One day after reports surfaced of Ryan Johansen being at the center of trade talks, all parties involved from Columbus did what they’re supposed to do — downplay the situation.

You can read the denials in full over at the Dispatch, but here’s the gist:

— Johansen said the rumors were “weird” and that he’s “never seen it before.” He also said there were no issues between him and head coach John Tortorella, calling the relationship “great.”

— GM Jarmo Kekalainen wouldn’t address the report, nor would Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt.

— Johansen added he hasn’t spoken to any of Columbus’ management about the trade rumblings.

So there’s that. What’s next?

At this stage of the game, it’s hard not to think about another Overhardt client, Kyle Turris.

Turris, you’ll recall, spent four (mostly) stormy years with the Coyotes before his trade out to Ottawa was orchestrated. Turris eventually told GM Don Maloney “this is not going to work out” with the club, and he was gone.

So, consider the similarities now:

— Turris was 22 at the time of the trade, with four years and 137 games under his belt.

— Johansen is 23, with five years and 291 games.

— Both had contentious contract holdouts with their respective clubs.

— Both are Overhardt guys.

— The Turris trade happened after the Coyotes went from Wayne Gretzky to Dave Tippett as head coach.

— Johansen is already on his third head coach (Scott Arniel, Todd Richards, Tortorella).

For now, these are all coincidences (or a forced narrative, depending what you think of the author).

And, of course, the one big — big — difference between the two is that, at the time of his trade, Turris wasn’t as good or established a player as Johansen currently is. Therefore, logic suggests any Johansen trade would be a lot more blockbuster-y and, therefore, probably more complex.

And as we know, complex deals aren’t easy to pull off.