If you’re looking to buy an NHL franchise, here is your market value. For those who do not know of the world-famous company, Forbes is a leading American business magazine, named for its editor-in-chief, Steve Forbes. The company focuses on financial and business stories in a multitude of industries, including technology, sciences, art, law and, of course, the professional sports industry. Each year, Forbes runs a valuation of sports franchises around the globe, from NFL football in the United States to UEFA “football” in Europe. Today, Forbes released its valuations and rankings of all thirty current NHL teams – with the Vegas Golden Knights not quite ready to be analyzed just yet.
Unsurprisingly, the most successful team in North America’s biggest city reigns supreme over the rest of the league. With deep playoff runs in back-to-back years and a hot start to 2016-17, the New York Rangers are considered to be the NHL’s most valuable franchise with a $1.25B valuation. The Rangers top the chart for the second year in a row, after being denied the top spot for more than a decade prior, and see a 4% bump in their value from last year. Success coupled with some heavy renovations to Madison Square Garden and nearly a nightly sellout rate brings New York the big bucks, as they took in about $219MM in revenue last year, $17MM more than the next in line.
Second and third overall are Original Six Canadian power houses: the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. Both hold on to their respective places from last year. However, the Maple Leafs held the top spot for an astonishing ten-year stretch from 2005 to 2014, before being bumped down to #3 last year. Having made the playoffs just once in the last decade, as well as seeing a 13-year sellout streak snapped in 2014-15, there is no doubt that the team has lost some value. A $1.1B valuation for a team that has struggled as much as Toronto has is not too shabby though, and is a testament to the city and its fans. Meanwhile, Montreal joins the Rangers as the only team to bring in over $200MM in revenue in 2015-16. The annual leader in attendance among the seven Canadian NHL teams, Montreal is a titan of industry in Canadian pro sports with a $1.12B valuation. Although both the Canadiens and Maple Leafs lost value this past year (5% and 4% respectively), this is most likely due to the weakness of the Canadian dollar. Both teams continue to excel fiscally, worth much more than any other Canadian NHL team or the Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto Raptors, or likely the entire Canadian Football League combined.
Rounding out the top five are the Chicago Blackhawks ($925MM) and Boston Bruins ($800M). The 2013 Stanley Cup opponents have more in common than just that. First, they nearly complete an Original Six reunion atop the valuation rankings, if it weren’t for the Detroit Red Wings down in eighth place. It’s no shock that the NHL’s oldest and most decorated teams are it’s most valuable. Next, the Blackhawks can make an argument that they are one of the most successful North American pro sports teams of this century, with three Stanley Cup championships, a roster filled with future Hall of Famers, and unrelenting success each and every year. Two of their strongest competitors for that title: the New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox. While the Blackhawks have been one of the best teams around, it’s no doubt that the Bruins valuation has been helped not just by their own success (2011 Stanley Cup champs), but also by the unquestionable status of Boston as the best sports city in the world over the past fifteen years. Interestingly enough, the Bruins’ valuation increased 7% over the past year, the biggest jump of any team in the top five.
Other notable Forbes valuations: the Pittsburgh Penguins ($570MM) at just 11th, despite years of success and being the reigning Cup champs (ownership reportedly balked at offers well below their own $750MM valuation and took the team off the market); the New York Islanders ($385MM) at 18th, an 18% increase from last season (though a sharp regression given their 2016-17 performance would be no surprise); the Dallas Stars ($500M, 12th), Tampa Bay Lightning ($305M, 24th), and Nashville Predators ($270MM, 26th), who continue to transform non-traditional hockey markets and all saw strong gains since last year; the Florida Panthers ($235MM), who despite being 29th saw a league-leading 26% value increase since last season as a new ownership group transforms the culture; and of course, the last-ranked Carolina Hurricanes ($230MM), who continue to struggle in the standings and in the ticket office, bringing up the rear in league attendance in 2015-16 and so far this year. Their valuation may be the most important of any Forbes calculated this year, as owner Peter Karmanos appears poised to sell the team in the near future.
The $500MM expansion fee for the new Las Vegas team would put the team right near the middle of the pack if that is indeed their valuation in 2017-18. The average NHL team is worth about $517MM, a 3% increase from last year’s Forbes list. The league’s economics continue to improve, which means a higher valuation for most teams. With the league enjoying increased media exposure and looking forward to all that expansion will bring this summer and next season, along with a now controlled salary cap structure, expect the profits of NHL teams to keep moving on up. If you’re in the market for a pro hockey team, start saving.