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Hockey fans drift slapshot over beer cups

Hotdogs are to baseball as beer is to hockey. And the suds are taken very seriously among many diehard hockey fans.

In fact, so serious that a group of fans in the U.S. have recently launched at $10,000 lawsuit against the CenturyLink Arena in Boise, Idaho, for allegedly shorting them of their beer poured in a cup.

With the NHL teams now in the heat of scrambling for playoff positions, the suds are flowing big time. But “big” in Boise does not necessarily mean “more,” as some angry hockey buffs following the East Coast Hockey League have found.

At a recent game between the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads and the Las Vegas Wranglers, fans preferring the bigger helping of the brew were paying US$7 for the tall, 20-ounce cups.

Those choosing to savour a smaller version of the golden refreshment were paying $4 for a shorter, wider 16-ounce cup.

Large or small, it was discovered both cups held the same amount of beer. Oops!

The revelation came to light when one Idaho hockey/beer aficionado discovered the size of the cups were deceiving.

A suds experiment was demonstrated at the arena and recorded by fan Gwen Gibbs, showing the amount of beer in the small cups also filled the larger cups. Gibbs then posted the evidence on YouTube, triggering a howl of protests, followed by four Steelheads’ fans launching the lawsuit.

It’s alleged the arena was imposing a penalty call of $3 against those choosing the larger cups.

It’s also suspected the same-size servings, but at different prices, may have been poured for the past five years at arena events. Here’s the YouTube link to the beer-experiment video:

“While different shapes, both cup sizes hold substantially the same amount of liquid and are not large versus small in actual capacity,” the group’s attorney, Wyatt Johnson, wrote in the lawsuit.

Johnson alleges the “Defendants knowingly sold each of their beers in a similar manner at each event held at the arena where beer was sold for a least the last five years.”

In response to the revealing video, according to Internet accounts, CenturyLink Arena is scrambling to correct “that problem” by appeasing fans with a bargain on beer.

“It was recently brought to our attention that the amount of beer that fits in our large (20-ounce) cups also fits in our regular (16-ounce) cups,” said CenturyLink Arena president Eric Trapp.

“The differentiation in the size of the two cups is too small,” said Trapp.

“To correct that problem, we’re purchasing new cups for the large beers that will hold 24 ounces, instead of 20, for the remainder of this season to provide better value for our fans.”

Gibbs said earlier she was “annoyed” when she saw her boyfriend, Heath Forsey (the fan conducting the experiment in her posted video), poured beer from the small cup, filling the larger cup.

“It’s amazing what can be done with one little video and the power of social media,” Gibbs said in an interview, joking that she hoped CenturyLink would rename the new 24-ounce cups the “Heath and Gwen size.”

Associated Press has waded into the beer debate, saying that despite the larger cups, one will get a better deal in the long run by ordering smaller servings.

It reports: “Regular draft beer costs $4 at the arena. Large beers cost $7. Even with the change (to larger cups), there is still a better value in the small cups. Forty-eight ounces of beer costs $14 if you purchase two large beers or $12 if you purchase three regular beers.”

To depart from the beer fiasco for a moment, those not familiar with the Idaho Steelheads, or the Las Vegas Wranglers, avid hockey buffs will attest we are dealing with serious hockey.

The ECHL is a mid-level professional league, generally regarded as a tier below the American Hockey League. Both the ECHL and the AHL are recognized by the collective bargaining agreement between the National Hockey League and the NHL Players’ Association.

Twenty-six of the 30 NHL teams have affiliations with the ECHL, and most recent statistics show that at least 528 players have advanced from the ECHL to play in the NHL.

The ECHL celebrated its 25th anniversary this year.

Here’s a link to the 20 best NHL players who got their starts in that league:

Such talent attests to why the ECHL teams have a robust, loyal following in the U.S. These are fans who understand the game, and pledge allegiance to beer as being part of the tradition — so don’t mess with tradition when pouring the suds.

Rick Zemanek is a former Advocate editor.



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