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The Globe and Mail

Dowbiggin: Sponsors pony up for compensation in NHL lockout

On the surface, it sounds like a dramatic power play. Molson Coors will seek compensation from the NHL for lost revenues caused by the current lockout of players. In fact, the terms under which Molson Coors can demand compensation are likely spelled out in clauses already contained in their contract with the NHL. Those contracts were signed approximately two years ago with the knowledge that a labour stoppage was a distinct possibility.

Sources tell Daily Grind that, unless there is something unusual in the deal between the brewer and league, Molson Coors can seek compensation only after 25 percent of the regular schedule is lost. All sponsor contracts with the NHL typically have similar language defining when they are entitled to compensation for opportunities and profits lost due to the lockout.

So while its CEO Peter Swinburn is justifiably unhappy with the effects of the lockout on consumption of his beer, Molson Coors'  leverage in this instance would be contractual rather than via any public pressure brought to bear upon the league and its commissioner Gary Bettman.

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One of the reasons many believe that the NHL will resume play in December is that it corresponds with the point at which the cancelled games might oblige the league to take care of its sponsors. When the NBA locked out its players last season, for instance, it was careful to still play a 66-game regular season, keeping them within the number not qualifying for compensation.


It is a challenging time for Molson Coors, which remains one of the two or three major sponsors of the NHL. Sales have been relatively flat the past year (its Canadian market share declined about one share point) and the NHL lockout is not helping matters.

Molson Coors' indignation is not a trifle to the NHL. Sources say that both it and NBC are sufficiently powerful enough to pressure commissioner Gary Bettman's hand. No doubt the comments of Swinburn made Bettman's stressful day in meetings all the more enjoyable. Hey, Gary, this Bud's for you.


So what's the least amount of time NHL teams need to get ready for any season that might result from current CBA negotiations?

According to one team we talked to, it would probably take about three or four days to assemble players spread out across Europe and North America. Then a 7-10 day training camp and, if time permits, home-and-home games against a regionally based club. In essence, two weeks bare minimum before playing games. Seventeen days would be better, but it will be sacrificed to make sure the NHL gets as many regular-season games in as possible.

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Just enough time to make a few trades, presumably, if Roberto Luongo gets his wish.


We've frequently mentioned the importance of sports to the conventional TV delivery systems that are struggling to retain viewers in real time. So the Wall Street Journal had some sobering news about "cutting the cable". Three major U.S. cable systems collectively lost 102,000 video customers in the latest quarter. It's an improvement on their combined loss of 193,000 a year earlier. But no one is throwing a party.

"Including the numbers from previously reporting publicly held pay-TV providers, the industry grew by 25,000 video subscribers, down from 148,000 a year earlier," says the Journal. No one has an exact reason for slippage yet, but the possibility of large numbers cutting the cable is bad news for everyone but sports providers who are the salvation of the industry.


Social media has produced all sorts of innovations in the world of sports, but it can't help you beat an MLB urine test. Just ask disgraced San Francisco Giant Melky Carbrera whose agents tried to use a website to bail him out of trouble.

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The MLB Players Association has announced that Cabrera's main agents, Sam and Seth Levinson, had no direct knowledge of the scheme to buy a website and use it to show that Cabrera's positive test this summer was caused by a substance obtained through the website.

But the MLBPA says that others within the Levinson's office did carry out the scheme. Juan Nunez, whom the Levinsons use as a consultant, has been indefinitely banned from being an agent of any kind for his participation in the website fraud. An application for limited certification by Juan Nunez's brother, Tirzon Nunez, was also turned down.

Wonder if they thought of suggesting Carl Lewis' track buddies were in the testing room when Melky was nailed?


"@dowbboy Get David Ebner's piece on CGY owner Murray Edwards in today's G&M. A Cdn. hawk who's been conveniently hidden behind front man Bettman."

"@rcamcole Don't see why it's so difficult to find solutions to this NHL-NHLPA "make hole" idea."

"@dowbboy @rcamcole Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall. @dowbboy

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