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.

Animal activists protest Ducks’ Stoner over grizzly bear hunt

Keith Fialcowitz

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — A small group of vocal protesters gathered outside Honda Center on Monday night to call for the suspension of Anaheim Ducks defenseman Clayton Stoner, who faces charges in Canada of illegally obtaining a license to shoot a grizzly bear.

While Ducks fans entered the rink for their home opener against Vancouver, about 20 protesters held signs and shouted slogans condemning Stoner. He faces five charges related to the 2013 hunt on British Columbia’s central coast.

“Killing is not a sport! Play a real sport!” the protesters shouted in unison. “Shame on the Ducks!”

Judie Mancuso, the president of Social Compassion in Legislation, compared Stoner to quarterback Michael Vick and Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer, whose killing of a beloved lion in Zimbabwe sparked an international outcry.

“The entire globe is against trophy hunting right now,” Mancuso said. “If most of these hockey fans understood that was the issue, I think most of them would be on our side.”

Wildlife groups and First Nations leaders have been outraged by Stoner’s killing of the bear, named Cheeky. Stoner defended his actions at the time when graphic photos of the kill were publicized, but he hasn’t commented recently.

The protesters were serenaded by chants of Stoner’s name by many fans, while others stopped to look at the signs. Mancuso said her group hopes to raise awareness of Stoner’s legal troubles.

“If people didn’t have outrage with the NFL, Michael Vick would have gotten away with it,” Mancuso said. “The only way that anything is going to happen is if we do this. If there’s not public outcry, nothing is going to happen, so we’ve got to try.”

Stoner grew up on Vancouver Island, but hasn’t lived in the province full-time for several years, which authorities say made him ineligible for the hunting license used to take the bear. He played for the Minnesota Wild at the time of the shooting.

Stoner faces two counts of knowingly making a false statement to obtain a hunting license and one count apiece of hunting without a license, hunting out of season and unlawful possession of dead wildlife. His case is set for Nov. 13 in Vancouver.

The 30-year-old Stoner was in the Ducks’ lineup for their home opener, and he fought Brandon Prust in the opening minutes. Stoner is beginning his sixth full NHL season and his second with Anaheim after signing a four-year, $13 million deal as a free agent before last season.

Related: Ducks d-man Stoner charged with unlawful grizzly bear hunt

NHL on NBCSN: Red Wings face Lightning in ’15 playoff rematch

Steven Stamkos, Henrik Zetterberg
AP Photo

NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2015-16 campaign tonight when the Detroit Red Wings host the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can stream the game online here.

The Lightning made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015, but their journey almost ended in the first round at the hands of the Red Wings. Detroit shutout Tampa Bay twice in that series and the two squads were locked in a scoreless tie until the third period of Game 7.

Despite the fact that the Red Wings were a mere hair away from advancing instead of Tampa Bay, the Lightning are often mentioned as serious Cup contenders while Detroit is typically regarded as a good, but not amazing team. However, that gap isn’t entirely unjustified.

After all, Tampa Bay has a very effective core of forwards that features Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat. If the highly regarded Jonathan Drouin, 20, is able to build off of his strong start to the 2015-16 campaign then the Lightning’s offense could be even more dangerous this season.

Detroit certainly has some offensive star power too in Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, but the duo is 35 and 37 years old respectively. On top of that, injuries have been a recurring issue for Datsyuk, who isn’t expected to make his season debut until November after undergoing ankle surgery.

As good as those two forwards still are, the Red Wings have to hope that their younger players will be able to lead the charge sooner rather than later. The good news is that 19-year-old Dylan Larkin‘s campaign is off to a strong start with three points in two games while 23-year-old Teemu Pulkkinen scored twice on Saturday.

The Red Wings have opened the season with back-to-back wins against Toronto and Carolina, but tonight’s game represents their biggest test to date. Meanwhile, the Lightning are similarly undefeated after three games, but this contest will be particularly trying for them given that it’s their third game in four days.