Spitballin’ on ‘Free Torts’, beer, and Vinny Prospal’s surprise retirement

Spitballin’ (or Super Pass ITBulis: All In, if you love adventurous acronymizing) is a feature that allows us to touch on a multitude of things really fast, because in the world of hockey, there are always lots of things to find and colour. Here are a few quick topics.

***

‘Free Torts’ isn’t really a big deal

Longtime readers of this blog may remember a bit we used to do called “This is not a story”, where we pooh-poohed some local Canucks talking point that struck us as not nearly as big a deal as people were making it. I bring this up because I had half a mind to resurrect the feature Friday as the “Free Torts” t-shirt controversy raged.

The short version is this: not long after Roberto Luongo kickstarted the “Free Torts” hashtag, two guys — Trevor Lepage and Dan Skolovy – began selling t-shirts with the slogan on them, as well as Tortorella’s likeness, for $20 apiece, with $1 going to charity.

The Canucks weren’t having it. “We love this gentleman’s passion,” Trent Carroll, the Canucks’ executive VP of sales and marketing, told Elliott Pap, “but he was using the likeness of a member of the Canucks to generate personal profit so we unfortunately had to ask him to stop.”

Over at freetorts.com, Lepage explained the situation. “Bad news friends, the man has shut us down. I got a phone call at work this afternoon from somebody from within the organization. They want us to stop selling shirts. Apparently supporting the coach is poor form around here.”

People were mad. Why do the Canucks refuse to let their fans have any fun? Why are they so humourless?

It’s simple, really. Because the Canucks are vigilant and aggressive in regards to protecting their brand, and if you try to profit off the likeness of one of their players (or coach, apparently) without getting clearance, they will come after you. They always have. This is no different, and it’s bizarre to me to watch people act like this is some special thing, or some new thing. They’ve always been jerks about this.

And what, exactly, could they possibly gain from turning a blind eye in this specific instance, but more trouble from the NHL? John Tortorella is currently serving a 15-day suspension for being “an embarrassment to the league”. Tacitly endorsing a t-shirt mocking that ruling — by going against their usual policy of shutting down anything that tries to exploit their brand – is only going to make things worse for them.

You can argue the legality of their cease and desist. You might have a case. But good luck making it in court against their team of expensive lawyers and having any money left afterwards.

Rogers Arena sells drinks to underage beer narc

And hey, if the Canucks are so anti-fun, then how come they sold alcohol to a minor last year?

Okay, it turns out that was a horrible mistake. On Friday, Rogers Arena dodged a bullet, as the B.C. liquor control and licensing board announced that the building would face no fine or suspension for serving liquor to an underage patron on March 14, 2013.

Apparently, the liquor board has underage liquor narcs — undercover agents who go around trying to get liquor — and one of them scored a beverage during a game versus the Nashville Predators. Normally that means either forfeiting a small fortune or your liquor license for a week or so, but the Canucks managed to get off scott-free. Only the server who forgot to ask for ID was let go.

It’s tough to blame him for his actions, though. That was a pretty crazy night. You’d think, on a night where Henrik Sedin scores on a penalty shot, the rules no longer apply.

John Tortorella’s flying clothesline

Back to Tortorella for a moment: this GIF of him coming over the top rope to deliver some stone cold justice to Bob Hartley is pretty fantastic:

If you made it, let us know. It’s been bouncing around the Internet for a few days and we’d love to give credit to the mad genius behind it.

Brian Burke thinks everything is the Canucks’ fault

While the Canucks accepted the punishment handed out to John Tortorella on Monday, Brian Burke and the Calgary Flames were far less passive about Bob Hartley’s $25,000 fine. Brian Burke said he was “perplexed by the fine.”

Then, while speaking to a group of law students mid-week, Burke upped the ante. “I’m not happy with the fine that Coach Hartley received,” he said. “Especially since we all know the Canucks started it.”

This quote made the rounds, but it’s important to note that Burke was joking. He’s crazy, but not that crazy.

Vinny Prospal would rather retire than go to Utica

And finally, does anyone else find it amazing that Vinny Prospal spent one day skating with the Utica Comets and decided to retire? This may be the most damning indictment of the Canucks’ prospect cupboard yet. Hmm…. on second thought, I think I’ll just quit hockey forever.

Tags: , ,

22 comments

  1. Human Cannonball
    January 25, 2014

    Here’s the original tweet with that Tortorella gif: https://twitter.com/IAmByks/status/424796546379427841

    @IAmByks said it was made by his brother Danny.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
  2. Karen
    January 25, 2014

    Your Tanner Glass scrabble t-shirt had his likeness on it, and THAT was ok – I guess because all the money went to charity? Did you get free coffee or something while you played? At the risk of pissing off the organization you blog about, that sounds like payment to me and prettttty sure the free torts fellows should bring it up.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +3 (from 3 votes)
    • yvr
      January 25, 2014

      My Tanner Glass Scrabble Champ t-shirt was purchased at the Canucks store…pretty sure they sanctioned the whole event. The “Canucks for Kids” logo on the back is also a bit of a give-away.

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: +4 (from 4 votes)
    • Harrison Mooney
      January 25, 2014

      Tanner Glass and the Canucks approved the likeness. It was actually a pretty long, laborious process. And yes, all the proceeds from those shirts when to charity.

      VN:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: +9 (from 9 votes)
  3. Bookie
    January 25, 2014

    Naturally my eyes just glazed over when I saw the title of this post.

    So anyways, where’s the free beer?

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +3 (from 3 votes)
  4. Alan
    January 25, 2014

    I went to the Comets game last night and I don’t blame Prospal one bit. The Comets are team plumber and last in the AHL (with the fewest amount of goals for). As a 38 year old, why would you subject yourself to playing in a farm team that has zero inspiring players and has the exact same problem that the Canucks have which is scoring goals. It’s like going to work for Blackberry. :P Something’s gotta change and I think it’s the entire Canuck front office.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: -6 (from 6 votes)
    • Daniel Wagner
      January 25, 2014

      He would subject himself to playing for the farm team because it was his only shot of getting back to the NHL. He was going to be on a PTO, which means he wasn’t signing for a full season in the AHL, but a tryout that would allow the Canucks to see if he still had what it takes to play in the NHL.

      As for the Comets, they’re an expansion team in the AHL. I don’t think their struggles this season are at all surprising. Not sure why the Comets’ performance this year means the entire Canucks front office is in line to be fired.

      VN:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: +7 (from 9 votes)
      • PB
        January 25, 2014

        It’s because when you hate the Canucks management they can do no right, ever. Putting a team in Utica, the town that even Dunder Mifflin couldn’t love, that’s all on Gillis too.

        VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
        Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
      • shoes
        January 26, 2014

        Thank you Daniel. There is a good number of posters who WOULD definitely have a GM job is there was another team added. I call them the 31st in line. Right now the Canucks prospect pool is better than it ever was…..but younger than it ever was and Gillis certainly knows how to develop players. His horse-trading skills are lacking, but a number of things have derailed for Mr. Gillis, starting with the untimely passing of Luc Bourdon. That led directly to Ballard who was a 28 minute guy that was very impressive, until he came to the Canucks and never was not injured. Ballard was deemed necessary because of our proximity to the top of the league in standings, so he was overpaid for. If he would have worked out , no problem, but he didn’t and now in the eyes of many Gillis is a bum. They of course ignore Stanton, Tanev and Santorelli.
        And please hockey gods allow Kassian to keep developing at present pace so that it shuts up even more of the knee jerk crowd.

        The team has problems now, but firing the brass is not the answer as that would leave job openings and we could end up with Feaster, Lowe, Milbury, Sutter or numerous other weird and wonderful GM’s that float around making more blunders in their first minute than Gillis will in his lifetime. ………………….Grass is always greener.

        VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
        Rating: +10 (from 10 votes)
  5. Matt
    January 25, 2014

    I don’t think it’s fair to call the Canucks “Jerks” about the IP thing, and you don’t have much of a legal ground to stand on if you tried to argue it in court.

    You can’t make money on other people’s copyright and IP, nor should you be able to. That’s the thing to remember here – these guys aren’t just being fans and having fun, they’re profiting on the Canucks image. You just can’t do that.

    I’m sure Pass It To Bulis would be flattered if I went out and made myself a PITB shirt. I’m sure you guys’d be choked (and you or the Sun would probably have a lawyer send me a C&D letter) if I started selling them for $20.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +12 (from 12 votes)
    • Brian
      January 25, 2014

      It is probably different in Canada, but in the U.S., while it would likely be quite a battle, the t-shirt guys would have at least a fighting chance at winning, as they have added “substantially transformative” elements, and are obviously involved in commentary regarding the NHL discipline. It also could be argued that the use is protected on the basis of parody, especially as much of the “Free Torts” movement is clearly tongue-in-cheek.

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: +2 (from 2 votes)
      • dontpassjustshoot
        January 25, 2014

        Luongo has the copyright on “#freetorts”.

        There is no substantially transformative element on the T-shirts.

        It is pretty much certain that in their contracts, there is a proviso that team-related IP generated by or for a player transfers to the ownership of the player. This is actually a fairly common feature of employment contracts.

        VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
        Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
        • 5minutesinthebox
          January 26, 2014

          Luongo cant have copyrights on , #freetorts’ as it references a persons name (that is not his own). This was clearly a couple of guys trying to turn a profit, and doing so using another persons likeness to do so. Not sure how they didn’t see an issue with that?
          Knowing the costs of primting to be less that $10 for a t-shirt with a single color digital or direct to garment, there is no question these guys where looking to make a quick buck.

          VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
          Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  6. Brent
    January 25, 2014

    IN terms of Vinny, I suspect that it was either a family thing that made him pull out, or after doing the practice with the comments he realized how out of shape he was. Remember when Jager first decided to come back, he didn’t last too long, which I think was a combination of conditioning and a nagging injury.

    I would have liked to see the free torts shirts being sold. Thats the problem when lawyers get involved. But really, this is all Luongo’s fault. #freetorts

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +6 (from 6 votes)
    • Wagman
      January 26, 2014

      #blameluongo

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: +4 (from 4 votes)
  7. shoes
    January 26, 2014

    The revenue from Torts likeness is not “just’ the Canucks deal. This is the entire NHL as that is how the CBA is structered. They share. The end.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +2 (from 2 votes)
    • Naturalmystic
      January 26, 2014

      The CBA applies to players not coaches. That’s why Tortorella was tried by a league kangaroo court and didn’t have any recourse to appeal his suspension. Fair use and parody should allow those t-shirt sales. Tortorella doesn’t own his image, he doesn’t own any variation of “free torts”. Vancouver just blusters and figures everyone will cower in fear. I recall a Honda dealership putting up a Go Canucks Go display and was smacked down because they aren’t sponsors.

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
      • Daniel Wagner
        January 26, 2014

        I am unsure if the Canucks are actually in the right, legally, but the person who took the photograph definitely would. If it actually came down to it, the photographer could be involved in a lawsuit. Not that I think it would come to that, but I don’t think fair use and parody cover taking someone’s photo, making it black and white, and slapping it on a t-shirt.

        I don’t know, I’m of two minds about it. On one hand, I’m a big fan of grassroots things like #freetorts, but on the other, I understand why the Canucks are really strict about these things and I think the guys who made these t-shirts really didn’t think things through. A t-shirt with just the hashtag or the words “Free Torts” or even getting someone to draw a cartoon of Torts would have avoided any issues.

        VN:F [1.9.16_1159]
        Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
        • 5minutesinthebox
          January 26, 2014

          I doubt the Canucks had any issue with the t-shirt at all and even if they did they could do nothing about it. But the t-shirts were being used to make a profit. If they just made them and handed them out them there would be no laws being broken.
          The Honda dealership was the same thing. Even if the dealership was simply using it as a way to support the team, it could easily be viewed as the dealership trying to you the Canucks popularity to help sell a product.

          VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
          Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  8. BBoone
    January 26, 2014

    I still have a T shirt from 1994 which has the Front page of the province with big On to the Cup
    And Greg Adams with his arms up after beating Toronto
    I hope they don’t find me and confiscate it.
    T Shirt solidarity forever!!

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +3 (from 3 votes)
  9. J21
    January 27, 2014

    Yeah, a sports franchise enforcing its IP rights is hardly newsworthy — except perhaps in Southeast Asia.

    Even if the parody exception were invoked (which is an established thing in the U.S. but not in Canada, it should be noted), Tortorella himself, whose likeness is on the shirts, would likely have some recourse under one of IP or privacy legislation, or common law. I’m not sure I’d want people commemorating my temper tantrum by selling my face on a T-shirt (let alone making money off of it).

    Just out of wonder, did you guys ever jump over any hurdles to use Jan Bulis’ name or likeness on your website? Particularly in pre-Sun days? I’m legitimately curious, not trying to needle you.

    VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
    Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
    • Wagman
      January 27, 2014

      Shhhh!! Do you want them to have to change the name of the blog? ;)

      VA:F [1.9.16_1159]
      Rating: +2 (from 2 votes)