If Boston lawyer William F. Burke is going to score any points in his recently filed breach-of-contract case, he’ll have to convince a Massachusetts jury to ignore the fact that the company he’s suing bears the name of the most beloved hockey player in Hub history.
The Adler, Pollock & Sheehan attorney represents Jiri Poner, a hockey talent consultant hired by the Bobby Orr Hockey Group to recruit skaters for No. 4’s sports agency.
According to a complaint pending in U.S. District Court in Boston, Poner entered into a consulting agreement with Orr’s company in the fall of 2005.
Under the terms of the deal, Poner says, he was entitled to be compensated for any athletes he brought to the company who were eventually signed to standard player contracts.
After a six-year business relationship between the parties, Poner was informed by email last November that the Orr Hockey Group was pulling the plug, the suit alleges.
At the time, the agency represented four players Poner had recruited, including former Boston Bruins defenseman Tomas Kaberle.
The contract required the Orr Hockey Group to continue to pay commissions to Poner for any of his players who opted to stay with the company, Burke says.
But things got testy when it became clear that the sports agency, which has offices in Florida and Boston, refused to pony up.
“We had some discussions about trying to resolve things without going to court, but they were not productive,” Burke says. “So we really had no choice but to go forward.”
Now it’s up to Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton to play the role of referee.
Burke says his client’s damages exceed $230,000 in past and future earnings. The Czech national is also seeking to recover costs and attorneys’ fees.
While the defendants’ ties to Florida allowed Poner to minimize Orr’s home court advantage by filing the lawsuit in the Sunshine State, Burke says he and his team like their chances in Massachusetts.
“There was some consideration to bringing this case in Florida in light of [Orr’s] popularity, but we thought Massachusetts was the better venue jurisdictionally and in every other way,” he says. “We’ve got a Massachusetts contract with a company that was then a domiciled Massachusetts corporation. We just thought we had what we needed here.”
The suit was filed on June 12; Burke says he has yet to hear from a lawyer for the other side.
A call to the Orr Hockey Group was not returned prior to deadline.