Some hockey fans are bristling while others are crowing with glee online over allegations that Edmonton Oilers players refused to pay the full cost of a nearly $17,000 night out at an upscale Calgary restaurant.
Opinions on team message boards and blogspots vary, with some saying the team members earn big money playing hockey and should have paid the full cost of their early New Year's Eve party.
But others say the players have been treated unfairly and accused the eatery's management of trying to gain publicity by going public with the allegations.
A fan writing as Adrianl defended the team's party-goers on an Edmonton Oilers message board. He wrote he found it unlikely that well-paid athletes would balk at paying a hefty restaurant and bar tab for a night out.
"They're not going to go around and demanding special treatment just because they are hockey players. If it happened all the time, we would hear about it a lot more," he wrote. "This guy is just trying to get more publicity for his restaurant."
On the same team message board, Lilfrnz suggested that perhaps the players should have chosen another restaurant if they didn't want to pay a hefty bill, or the large tip that went with it. "It was a group of nearly 50 people who refused to pay 33 per cent of their bill. If anything, it sounds like they objected to the 18 per cent (automatic gratuity) which means they shouldn't have gone to the restaurant."
The manager of the Osteria de Medici restaurant could not be reached for comment Saturday. A person answering the phone at the restaurant repeatedly refused comment and then hung up.
Allan Watt, a spokesman for the team, also declined further comment Saturday.
Maurizio Terrigno, manager of the eatery, has said team members "went ballistic" when they got the final bill and would only pay just over $12,000 on the nearly $17,000 tab.
He said the full bill was over $14,000 dollars and the restaurant normally adds an automatic 18 per cent gratuity for a large group, bringing the total to just under $16,800.
The bar tab alone was over $8,000. Terrigno said the players argued they should pay by the bottle, instead of by the glass, for dozens of shooters purchased during the bash.
He also said the restaurant tried to charge for an imported bottle of expensive brandy after one of the players took a swig from it.
Infuriated by the incident, Terrigno said he planned to donate the money the players paid him to charity.
Watt said on Friday that the players felt the bill was "outrageous" and complained about it.
He said the players paid the full amount of the tab after the restaurant reduced it by about $7,000 and left a tip of about $1,900 dollars.
The Oilers had lost by a score of 2-1 earlier in the night in a game against the Calgary Flames.
The intense sporting rivalry between Alberta's two largest cities also cropped up in online discussions, with some fans questioning the eatery manager's motives for going public.
"This guy sounds more like a hard core Flames fans just looking for an easy way to give the Oilers a black eye," wrote Hillcat.
Some Flames fans gloated over the fracas, saying the price of the meal seemed reasonable for "millionaire athletes."
"Of course, the bar menu and wine list price is available before hand so the restaurant was justified in the amount of the bar tab. The Oilers expected special treatment after being presented with the bill," wrote lgBoPhanKipReg on a team message board for the Calgary Flames.
But other Flames fans thought that the matter could have been handled privately, instead of becoming a leading story on media websites and a hot topic in online discussions.
"This is a pretty stupid thing to be reporting on or discussing. Shame on the Oilers and shame on the restaurant owner for bringing this to media attention rather than dealing with the Oiler organization about it privately," wrote terrainman1.