Small Quebec Hockey Company in Legal Battle with Hockey Giant

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A potential legal battle in the Quebec Superior Court is brewing between two hockey manufacturing companies and has been dubbed a commercial struggle between David and Goliath. Équipements de gardien de but Michel Lefebvre (EGB) is a Terrebonne, Quebec, family-owned and operated hockey manufacturing company that has been making elite goalie equipment since the 1970s. Some of the most renowned NHL goalies of recent memory–including Ken Dryden, Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy, Ed Belfour, Curtis Joseph, Roberto Luongo, Marc-André Fleury, and Carey Price–have used EGB goalie equipment and praised their products. EGB has produced elite goalie equipment so popular that Marc Leclerc of CBC Sports referred to them as artisans.

Not only have players praised EGB’s products, but many competitors–including Koho, Reebok, and CCM–have partnered with EGB and incorporated their designs in their goalie equipment lines. Most recently, in 2009, CCM, the world’s largest and most iconic hockey equipment manufacturer, signed a 10-year commercial partnership with EGB. Under the deal, EGB designed and manufactured the equipment while CCM marketed and distributed it; however, the 10-year deal recently expired on Dec. 31, 2019 after the two companies failed to come to a new agreement.

In 2017, Adidas sold CCM to the Birch Hill Equity Partners for $110 million and, according to Leclerc, to the astonishment of the hockey community, Birch Hill came to the conclusion that CCM’s association with EGB was no longer necessary and let the 10-year deal expire. According to Gilles Lupien, a former Montreal Canadien and goalie coach, “[t]he person who made this decision on behalf of CCM probably had no good knowledge of the hockey community.” According to another former goalie coach, François Allaire, the association between EGB and CCM was “perfect” for both parties.

Luckily, EGB owners knew for nine months that their agreement with CCM was not going to be renewed. According to Michel Lefebvre, EGB took the break with CCM as an “opportunity to return to the drawing board and to launch new projects.” Many fans were excited that EGB’s legendary “L” logo would again appear on NHL rinks. However, plans may be delayed due to the start of what has been described as the beginning of a possible commercial struggle between David and Goliath.

Quebec Superior Court documents show that under the longstanding deal, EGB shared many of its designs, manufacturing procedures, and innovations with CCM; however, the agreement stipulated that those designs would remain the exclusive property of EGB. Thus, in theory, after the 10-year deal expired, the designs, manufacturing procedures, and innovations could no longer be used in CCM’s manufacturing process. Nevertheless, while watching the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championships in the Czech Republic, EGB’s owners allegedly noticed several of the goalies in the tournament were wearing CCM pads based entirely on EGB’s designs.

EGB accused CCM of using those same designs, manufacturing procedures, and innovations in violation of the agreement. EGB sought an injunction and sought an order to cease CCM’s production and to force CCM to publish a notice stating that the equipment should have been clearly labelled “powered by Lefebvre.” The Quebec Superior Court Justice refused EGB’s request, based on a lack of evidence, but noted that EGB’s case seemed very sound in many aspects. The Justice also encouraged the parties to negotiate a mediated settlement. EGB lawyers are now allegedly in the process of drafting a letter to CCM; however, EGB could pursue alternative legal routes.