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Beer dispute forces Czech hockey team to leave town

Greg Wyshynski
Puck Daddy

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Hockey fans have seen teams relocate for many reasons, from ownership struggles to poor attendance to Norm Green being a big dumb jerk.

From the Czech Republic comes a new one: Beer, or as Homer Simpson famously called it, “the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”

HC Mountfield České Budějovice, founded in 1928, is a team that plays in the Czech Extraliga in a building called the Budvar Arena, whose naming rights are owned by Budějovický Budvar, a brewery based in the city. The beer they produce is Budweiser Budvar.

(Yes, Budweiser; for more about the decades-long trademark disputes between that brewery and the American beer behemoth, head here.)

According to the Prague Post, Czech Extraliga last November cut a deal with the brewers of Radegast to make that beer the official one for the league. Only Radegast could be served at league games … which really, really, put HC Mountfield in a bind.

The arena deal with Budvar includes a provision that it's the only beer served at HC Mountfield home games. The team faced a 1 million Kč ($52,000) fine for every game Radegast wasn’t served there, up to 15 million Kč per season.

So the only solution, according to the team, is relocation out of that arena to another city: Hradec Králové, where the team will combine with HC by Royal Lion to form a new franchise.

If that seems like a rather extreme move, there might be other things at work here.

From the Post:

HC Mountfield Chairman Miroslav Schön had announced plans to leave České Budějovice, where the club was founded in 1928, for Hradec Králové, 105 miles (169 kilometers) to the northeast.

Budějovický Budvar Director Jiří Boček suggested Schön is using the beer dispute as a diversionary tactic and that the hockey club's debts are the real issue. "The key to resolving the situation won't be the terms the hall is leased under, or the type of beer on draft there, or the city in which Extraliga hockey is played," he told the Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes the day talks broke down. "The only solution is a sizable injection of funds."

To the surprise of no one, Hradec Králové is offering the team a sweet deal to relocate, to the tune of 13.7 million Kč per season.

České Budějovice has offered to cancel the Budvar naming rights deal at a cost of 14 million Kč if the team guaranteed it would play in České Budějovice, and in the Czech Extraliga, for two more years. But HC Mountfield claimed that with relegation a possibility, no promises about participation in the League could be made.

Hence, they're relocating.

So there you go: a hockey arena dispute sparked by beer.

Because, you know, that never happens at a game …

s/t Jon Rowson

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