A legal battle is pitting a legendary Quebec-based maker of hockey goalie equipment against CCM, the world's largest hockey equipment manufacturer.
Équipements de gardien de but Michel Lefebvre (EGB) is a family-run company based in Terrebonne, Que., that's been making elite goalie equipment since the 1970s.
According to Radio-Canada sports columnist Martin Leclerc, 34 active NHL goalies — including Habs starter Carey Price — use pads, masks, blockers and gloves made by EGB.
Leclerc said six of the top seven goalies in NHL history, in terms of number of wins — Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy, Roberto Luongo, Ed Belfour, Marc-André Fleury and Curtis Joseph — all used EGB equipment.
EGB has been in a commercial partnership with CCM since 2009. That 10-year deal expired on Dec. 31, after the two companies failed to come to a new agreement.
In court documents filed last week, EGB alleged that CCM is now stealing its designs and using them to make and sell its own goalie pads.
Tipped off watching World Junior championships
The court documents show that under the longstanding deal, EGB designed and manufactured goalie equipment, and CCM marketed and distributed it.
EGB shared its designs, manufacturing procedures and innovations with CCM.
But the agreement stipulated that those designs would remain the exclusive property of EGB — for the life of the deal and once it expired.
EGB planned to continue to design and manufacture goalie equipment on its own once the partnership with CCM ended.
CCM planned to start making its own goalie equipment.
Court documents show that EGB's owners, the Lefebvre family, became suspicious of CCM's activity while watching the World Junior Hockey Championships over the holidays.
They noticed several of the goalies in the tournament were wearing pads made by CCM that seemed to be based entirely on EGB's designs.
Emergency injunction sought, but refused
EGB accused CCM of stealing the designs in violation of the agreement.
Last week, lawyers for EGB sought an emergency injunction in Quebec Superior Court, seeking a judicial order to force CCM to cease manufacturing the goalie pads immediately and to return the pads used in the tournament to EGB.
EGB also wanted CCM to publish a notice in the sports sections of major newspapers, stating that the equipment should have been clearly labelled "powered by Lefebvre."
In a decision released last Thursday, Justice Fréderic Bachand refused EGB's request.
He noted that the only evidence EGB submitted were photos of the CCM goalie pads used in the world junior tournament and photos of similar pads made by EGB.
Bachand conceded that EGB's case seemed "very sound" in many aspects.
"The photographs produced show that the defendant's new pads are, at least in appearance, both different from those previously marketed by the defendant, and very similar in several respects to those marketed by the plaintiffs," Bachand wrote.
But Bachand said the photos alone were not enough to establish malicious intent on the part of CCM, and therefore he couldn't grant the emergency injunction.
Bachand encouraged EGB and CCM to try to negotiate a solution through mediation.
Jean-Luc Couture, the lawyer for EGB, told CBC Monday he was in the process of drafting a letter to CCM, but he wouldn't reveal its contents.
No one from CCM could be reached for comment.