Two weeks ago, Justice Frank Newbould of the Ontario Superior Court (Canada) tossed out the National Hockey League’s $375 million North America sponsorship agreement with Molson-Coors Brewing Company. The exclusive seven-year beer sponsorship “monster” deal would have been the largest sponsorship agreement in the league’s history. However, with Judge Newbould’s recent ruling, the deal becomes just another questionable decision made by the NHL.
Judge Newbould nullified the agreement after determining that the NHL already had a sponsorship deal in place with one of Molson’s largest rivals, Labatt Brewing Company. Specifically, Newbould found that the NHL had previously sold the exclusive beer sponsorship rights to the Canadian region to Labatt for the next three years.
The NHL and Molson-Coors plan to appeal Newbould’s ruling.
If Judge Newbould’s finding is correct, you really have to doubt the league’s leadership. As Damien Cox of thestar.com reported, one industry analyst described the situation as “very embarrassing,” noting that the NHL basically “tr[ied] to sell the same property twice and got caught.”
Moreover, this news comes only a few weeks after another questionable decision by the league to allow the Atlanta Thrashers to move out of the fourth largest TV market in the United States after only a six-month search for a local buyer.
On a positive note, thanks to the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks for an exciting, hard-fought seven game Stanley Cup Finals. Thankfully, the excitement from the games has overshadowed the NHL’s recent decision-making.