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Inside the Numbers: The 2009 Forbes NHL Valuations PDF Print E-mail
Articles and Opinions
Written by Maury Brown & Matthew Coller   
Tuesday, 17 November 2009 03:34

NHLIf you take the Versus/DirecTV dispute, the NHL’s miniscule TV ratings and recent ownership debacles, then add that with a recession and NFL record ratings, you’d think the NHL would be doomed. But, Forbes.com reported last week that at least leaguewide, the NHL turned a profit for its 2008-’09 season. Forbes’ research revealed a operating profit, which is earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), of $6.1 million.

In the 12 years Forbes has been tracking the NHL, this is its highest figure. Additionally, the average NHL franchise’s worth is reported to be $223 million, which is $3 million more than the 2007-’08 season. Revenue from non-hockey events in NHL arenas also increased by $70 million to $2.82 billion.

So, how the heck did that happen? Well, markets such as Chicago, Pittsburgh and Washington have reinvented themselves. The Chicago Blackhawks finally allow their home fans to see home games, the Pittsburgh Penguins made two straight Stanley Cups after years of mediocrity and of course, Alexander Ovechkin’s stardom has boosted the Washington Capitals.

Local media and new sponsors are the biggest players in the revenue growth. Three major markets, Detriot, Chicago and Toronto, signed new contracts before the beginning of last season, causing a 15 percent raise up to $356 million. And, new sponsors such as McDonalds, Honda, Crisco and Visa have boosted sponsorship revenue 1.9 percent to $339 million.

But, says Forbes, the good news doesn’t apply to all NHL teams. The Pheonix Coyotes were recently purchased by the league for around $140 million, which means the league will assume the team’s liabilities until a buyer can be found. The Coyotes are not the only team struggling, the Nashville Predators and Florida Panthers are reportedly for sale and several teams, including the New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers need new arenas.

In fact, by Forbes' accounting, 14 of the 30 clubs in the NHL posted operating losses. From as little as $800,000 in losses for the Calgary Flames to double-digit losses for the Carolina Panthers, and aforementioned Phoenix Coyotes.

Showing that the NHL can be profitable, and very much so, according to Forbes, the Toronto Maple Leafs had an operating income of $78.9 million. Other highly profitable clubs included the Montreal Canadians ($31.3 million), New York Rangers ($27.7 million), and Detroit Red Wings ($27.4 million).

To place the Maple Leafs' popularity in perspective, while the worldwide economy has taken a hit to nearly every sector, the Toronto club was more profitable this year, than last ($78.9 million in operating income compared to $66.4 million in 2008, and increase of 19 percent in profits.

Lastly, while leaguewide, revenues are up, the value of many NHL franchises have gone down from last year, in large part due to the economy. Fourteen of the 30 clubs saw their value drop from 2008 to 2009 with the highest drops coming from the Avalanche (down 11 percent), Stars (down 10 percent), and Thrashers (down 10 percent), the largest number of decliners since 2004.

The question will remain: Will the disparity between successful and unsuccessful clubs continue to widen? Clearly, as witnessed by the Coyotes, some clubs are near insolvency.

Two new general partners took over the Florida Panthers on Monday, stressing more accountability, greater professionalism and an unwillingness to accept mediocrity. The co-general managers, Cliff Viner and Stu Siegel, replace Alan Cohen who owned the team since 2001. The Panthers have not made the playoffs since 2000. Cohen said he wanted to sell the club, in part because of losing money.``I know I leave the organization in much better shape than it was when I took it over,'' said Cohen in a statement.

Select Read More to see the latest Forbes franchise valuations for each of the 30 clubs in the NHL


Team Current Value1 ($mil) 1-Yr Value Change (%) Debt/Value2 (%) Revenue ($mil) Operating Income3 ($mil)
1 Maple Leafs 470 5 31 168 78.9
2 NY Rangers 416 1 0 139 27.7
3 Canadiens 339 2 71 130 31.3
4 Red Wings 337 11 0 130 27.4
5 Flyers 273 -1 24 101 3.1
6 Bruins 271 3 44 108 11.6
7 Blackhawks 258 26 0 108 20.9
8 Stars 246 -10 81 97 12.4
9 Canucks 239 1 46 109 20.3
10 Devils 223 0 112 97 1.4
11 Penguins 222 14 45 93 3.3
12 Wild 210 -3 54 95 1.3
13 Kings 208 -1 79 92 10.6
14 Ducks 206 2 17 94 4.8
15 Avalanche 205 -11 16 84 3.4
16 Flames 200 -2 15 95 -0.8
17 Senators 197 -5 66 90 -3.8
18 Lightning 191 -4 55 80 -2.2
19 Sharks 184 3 24 84 -5.0
20 Capitals 183 15 37 83 -4.9
21 Hurricanes 177 5 51 82 -4.6
22 Blues 176 9 68 80 -2.7
23 Sabres 170 1 29 79 -5.2
24 Oilers 166 -5 60 83 9.4
25 Blue Jackets 165 5 27 77 -9.9
26 Panthers 159 -2 50 74 -13.6
27 Predators 156 -5 52 71 -5.7
28 NY Islanders 149 -3 67 62 -5.6
29 Thrashers 143 -10 46 68 -1.8
30 Coyotes 138 -3 101 66 -18.5


Revenues and operating income are for 2007-2008 season. 1Value of team based on current arena deal (unless new arena is pending), without deduction for debt (other than arena debt). 2Includes arena debt. 3Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.

Source: Forbes


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Matthew Coller is a staff member of the Business of Sports Network, and is a freelance writer. He can be followed on Twitter

Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.

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