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Central Hockey League Lawsuit Against NAHL And Brahmas

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The Central Hockey League was once a very strong minor professional hockey circuit.  The league featured great buildings, fan support, and highly skilled players, some with NHL experience at the end of their careers.  Most people in the hockey business would say that those days are distant images in the rear view mirror.

Most people in the hockey business would say that Junior Hockey is a growth industry.  Not one that is always profitable for team owners, but one at the NAHL level there is no shortage of interest in expansion.  The key for the NAHL is in finding good markets, many of them being in non traditional hockey states and cities.

Last week a lawsuit was filed by the Central Hockey League seeking damages from the Lone Star Brahmas and the NAHL among other party’s.

This lawsuit could be the death strike delivered upon the Central Hockey League through their own actions.  In short it could be suicide in the court of public opinion.  The public opinion being that of the hockey public.

The Six Count Lawsuit filed in the Federal District Court of Fort Worth, alleges Trademark Infringement, False Designation of Origin/False Descriptions, Cyber Piracy, Common Law Trademark Infringement, Misappropriation and Unfair Competition, and Unjust Enrichment.

Also included in the suit is an application for a Preliminary and Permanent Injunction.

Thirty one pages.  Thirty one pages of loosely based claims and claims for damages in favor of a team that no longer exists, in a league that has seen its membership drop from a high of 18 teams in 2010-2011 to 10 teams for the 2013-2014 season.  The 2010-2011 season numbers coming from 5 teams joining in a limited way from the defunct IHL.

Prior to the 2010-2011 season the CHL also received benefit of absorbing 10 WPHL teams in 2001.  Prior to the 2001 season the CHL was a league that had taken a decade to rise from 6 to 12 teams.  Not exactly the franchise growth model used by McDonalds.

The CHL has not done itself any favors with this lawsuit.  While a lawsuit in itself is not uncommon in sports, the fact that this lawsuit goes after two Amateur Junior Hockey leagues in the NAHL and WSHL, as well as the NAHL’s Brahmas, it goes further in claiming damages against the Texas Brahmas Youth Hockey Association.

Ratification by acceptance.

Teams have been using the Brahmas name for years in Texas.  It has not been exclusive to the CHL.  The CHL should have initiated this type of suit the very first time that the name was used by any other team outside of the CHL.

The fact that they did not, since the WSHL’s Texas Brahmas have been playing since the 2010-2011 season without any lawsuit being filed, shows the CHL’s acceptance of that amateur team using a similar name and likeness.  Similar, not exactly the same.  The passage of time and awareness would be an argument for ratification of that teams usage of similar names and likeness.

Protection of any claim begins when you are first made aware of a potential claim.  Three years of use without a claim filed could easily be argued as a forfeiture of any claim.

The other issue is that the CHL says it would like to bring back its professional team named the Brahmas.  While that’s all well and good, the CHL has no real plan to do so.  There is no arena available to them to do so, and according to published news reports, the CHL Brahmas owe money to vendors and allegedly to former employees.

Perhaps the CHL would like to make sure their house was clean before claiming someone else’s house is not?

Even if it were possible for the CHL’s Brahmas to return in the next year or two, can the CHL honestly believe that anyone in youth or junior hockey circles in the Dallas – Fort Worth area will support the CHL’s team after this lawsuit?

Are the Federal Courts willing to risk creating a landslide of lawsuits against Amateur hockey programs that use names and likeness’ associated with NHL and minor professional teams?

Bad ideas, are just bad ideas.

Are CHL owners upset with experiencing lost markets in recent years?  Probably.  Are they upset that they have been lost to the NAHL in some cases?  Probably.

But not every market has been lost to the NAHL.  Some markets have simply folded up, and others have moved on the the SPHL as well.

What does that say about the CHL?  That is for the consumer to decide.

As a hockey fan, are you willing to support the CHL after learning about this lawsuit?  That remains to be seen.

Joseph Kolodziej – Publisher

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