As a fan of a sports team, a championship win is a pinnacle of happiness, guaranteeing a lifetime of memories, countless stories to pass along to friends and family, and a healthy amount of money spent at cash registers to commemorate the occasion. In June 2019, the St. Louis Blues defeated the Boston Bruins to win the 2019 Stanley Cup on Boston’s TD Garden home ice, while at the same time, Aaron Stock–a Wentzville native, Richmond Heights firefighter, and Blues fan–was celebrating at a watch party at the Blues’ Enterprise Center. As easy as it is to imagine wanting to preserve memories of the greatest year your team has ever had, try to then imagine how you would feel if your favorite team was seemingly gaslighting you while selling you a bill of goods.
This appears to be the origin story of a lawsuit that is now on the Conduct Detrimental radar. Stock appears to have initially filed suit in St. Louis County on October 14, 2021, but the case was transferred to the City of St. Louis on July 8, 2022. As of this writing, a jury trial is scheduled for January 30, 2023, but this assumes that there are no delays in deposing witnesses and that the parties do not otherwise settle the matter.
Aaron Stock has purchased thousands of dollars of St. Louis Blues memorabilia. Now, he's suing the team saying some of it was mislabeled.
According to Katie Kull’s reporting on this lawsuit, Stock was the winner of a Blues-sponsored auction in October 2019, bidding almost $1700 for leg pads attributed to Stanley Cup-winning starting goaltender Jordan Binnington–and also attributed to the 2018-19 Cup-winning season. Stock appears to have subsequently attempted to “photo match” his memorabilia, only to come to a disappointing conclusion that his Binnington pads were from the year after the Stanley Cup win (the 2019-20 season)--instead of the 2018-19 season as seemingly advertised. “Photo matching” refers to noticing unique identifying marks or characteristics on game-used artifacts, and locating that memorabilia with the exact markings in-game photographs. This disappointing Binnington discovery appears to have uncovered similar stories about memorabilia from other key Blues players, such as Cup-winning backup goaltender Jake Allen and star winger Vladimir Tarasenko: the items were apparently stated to have been worn in the 2018-19 Cup year, but no photos existed to corroborate the Blues’ statements about their use in that season. When the product description hinges upon game use in the championship year, a team’s alleged mistake should be a key fact for a jury to decide!
As a collector of game-used memorabilia myself, I can confirm that mistakes can happen. Some teams offer a certificate of authenticity (COA) accompanying the memorabilia that they sell, some teams do not offer any COA but will still include an item description as to when and by whom the equipment was used, and some teams will only hold an occasional garage sale where everything is sold “as-is.” When a COA accompanies a piece of game-used memorabilia, collectors will conclude whether the COA is corroborated by photo matches, or whether there is more to the story than that. I have items in my collection that photo match to more games than the COA and/or the auction item descriptions offer, to fewer games, or sometimes to simply an incorrect game. Then, if the COA proves to have wrong information, the collector as buyer probably has to choose between living with an expensive “buyer beware” lesson or else seeking recourse in other ways.
For the sake of some personal examples, I own a game-used helmet that I won from a Montreal Canadiens auction. This white helmet was sold as “Ben Chiarot’s 2020 playoffs used helmet.” The helmet photo matches quite obviously to the 2020 playoffs, and it also photo matches just as obvious to many regular season games before the 2020 playoffs–at least one of them, I attended in person. Here, as a collector, I am happy because the photo matches are better than advertised, so I will never complain! Meanwhile, I also own a Corey Schueneman stick that is authenticated by the Habs as used in LGBTQIA+ Pride Night warmups on April 16, 2022, prior to the game against the Washington Capitals. In this auction, there were no photos of the exact stick for bidding, but I knew Schueneman was pictured with a Pride-taped stick at this warmup on the Canadiens’ Instagram page, so I bid on it hoping it would photo match. Interestingly, it clearly does not photo match Pride warmups, but it does conclusively photo match to the previous night’s game instead, on April 15, 2022, against the New York Islanders. My best guess is that this stick was used on the 15th, retaped so it was ready for warmups on the 16th, and whether or not it was actually used in warmups on the 16th, it was given a COA and sold to me. This is a slightly odd fact pattern, but with a photo match to regular season game action, this is better than a warmup stick, so once again, I will not complain about this piece of memorabilia either!
Back to the St. Louis litigant. Stock’s allegations appear to be more than just one accident at auction, because he offered his concerns and objections to the Blues to General Counselor Michael Lowenbaum in May 2020, and Lowenbaum admitted deficiencies in the authentication system at a July meeting. Since then, instead of overhauling their authentication processes, refunding Stock, or even arranging for autograph sessions to keep Stock out of the courthouse, the Blues allegedly continued selling “fake goods” such as a Carl Gunnarsson “game used” helmet with no stickers or any other signs of use, and ultimately instructed Stock to stop bidding on Blues items. Now, Aaron Stock has thousands of dollars worth of St. Louis Blues game-used memorabilia–some accompanied by incorrect or intentionally misleading COA’s, and a lawsuit against his favorite team. Whether his collection can still remind him of the 2019 Stanley Cup championship, or whether it is now his personal tort museum, will be shaped by the future fate of these legal proceedings.
Mike Engle is an associate attorney for the United States federal government. During his time at Hofstra Law School in New York, his articles were published in the Hofstra Labor & Employment Law Journal and the DePaul Journal of Sports Law & Contemporary Problems. He was also an invited guest on the now defunct vlog Law & Batting Order. Mike resides in Upstate New York with his wife, Gillian, and their daughter, Esther. Interact with him on Twitter @EngleLaw29, but only during off-duty hours and preferably not during Montreal Canadiens games!
 Kull, Katie, Diehard Blues fan sues team, claims they sold thousands in mislabeled merchandise, LONGVIEW NEWS-JOURNAL (July 25, 2022), https://www.news-journal.com/diehard-blues-fan-sues-team-claims-they-sold-thousands-in-mislabeled-merchandise/article_36e01e8e-db37-5abd-9edd-f76bf8956ca7.html  Docket No. 21SL-CC04831 (accessed July 25, 2022), https://www.courts.mo.gov/casenet/cases/header.do?inputVO.caseNumber=21SL-CC04831&inputVO.courtId=CT21  Docket No. 2222-CC06810 (accessed July 25, 2022), https://www.courts.mo.gov/casenet/cases/header.do?inputVO.caseNumber=2222-CC06810&inputVO.courtId=CT22  Kull, supra note 1.  Kull, supra note 1.  Engle, Michael, Ben Chiarot 2020 Helmet, GAME USED AUTHORITY (accessed July 25, 2022), https://gameusedauthority.com/guauth.com/ci/p0zk.  Engle, Michael, Corey Schueneman 2022 Hockey Stick, GAME USED AUTHORITY (accessed July 25, 2022), https://gameusedauthority.com/guauth.com/ci/p0jh6g==.  Kull, supra note 1.  Id.