Molson, Labatt call a truce

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 12:08 PM ET

Molson and Labatt have settled their suds squabble at the John Labatt Centre, allowing the beer taps to flow for the 2005 Memorial Cup, The Free Press learned last night. Representatives of the two firms and Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco spent hours yesterday working on a deal.

The Free Press reported yesterday there was a possibility the city could lose the May hockey tournament if the dispute over what beer would be sold at the arena wasn't resolved soon.

"There's a settlement in principle," London Knights governor Trevor Whiffen said. "It just needs to be signed off by all the parties."

The Knights are host team at this year's Memorial Cup.

Molson is a major sponsor of the tournament, which runs May 21-29 at the downtown arena bearing the Labatt name. The brewery paid $4.5 million to have its name on the building and the rights to sell beer.

DeCicco spent much of yesterday on the phone mediating a deal to let the 10-day tournament go off without a hitch.

"You need to keep moving forward and you don't want to get stalled on any item at all," Whiffen said of the quick deal. "You don't want to have issues to sidetrack you. This was very important, but we still have a thousand things to do as we prepare to make this the best Memorial Cup ever seen.

"With this (settlement), we're at the stage we need to be at."

Molson and Labatt issued separate statements earlier yesterday, assuring that London was in no danger of losing the tournament and that a deal would be reached.

"They . . . sent (statements) out because they obviously want to be really clear that they're going to work to resolve the issue," DeCicco said, though she wouldn't confirm a deal.

No details of the compromise reached by Molson and Labatt were available.

David Jones, director of public relations for Molson Canada, said from Toronto that disputes like this one are not uncommon.

"As with any sporting event, there are sponsors and there are rights associated with that, and the dispute here is over pouring rights," Jones said.

He said the settlement would "be something we're all happy with. It will be a combination of our product and their product."

Jones confirmed the name John Labatt Centre will remain on the building during the tournament.

Labatt initially believed it was going to be shut out of beer sales during the event.

A similar beer battle between Labatt and Molson saw London lose the 2003 Canadian Hockey League-NHL top prospects game to Kitchener.

DeCicco was called in to mediate and the 2004 game was played at the JLC.


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