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Study: Average NHL franchise value down for first time since 2001

New York Rangers stay top of Forbes’ rankings with five teams worth more than US$1bn.

10 December 2020 Sam Carp

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  • Average NHL franchise value drops 2% to US$653m
  • Revenue for 2019/20 down 14% to US$4.4bn as operating income dives to US$250m
  • Five most valuable teams accounted for nearly a quarter of league’s revenue

The average value of a National Hockey League (NHL) franchise is down for the first time since 2001, according to Forbes’ latest list of team valuations.

The business outlet estimates the average team in North America’s preeminent ice hockey league is now worth US$653 million, a two per cent drop on last year, when that figure climbed six per cent to US$667 million. 

The decline is not a surprise given the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which forced the 2019/20 NHL season to be suspended before it was completed behind closed doors in bubble environments in Edmonton and Toronto. 

The league’s revenue for the 2019/20 campaign fell 14 per cent to US$4.4 billion, according to Forbes, which said operating income dropped a whopping 68 per cent to US$250 million.

There was no change at the top of the list, where the five most valuable franchises are valued at US$1 billion or more.

With a valuation of US$1.65 billion, the New York Rangers remain the NHL’s most valuable team, followed by the Toronto Maple Leafs (US$1.5 billion) and the Montreal Canadiens (US$1.34 billion). The Chicago Blackhawks (US$1.085 billion) and the Boston Bruins (US$1 billion) complete the top five.

Forbes added that those five teams accounted for almost a quarter of the NHL’s revenue during the 2019/20 season, which would have seen the league lose US$50 million without them.

No franchise value increased this year, but there were 24 teams who saw their valuation drop, including Stanley Cup finalists the Dallas Stars, whose value was down four per cent to US$575 million. 

The Tampa Bay Lightning, who were crowned Stanley Cup champions in September, saw no change in their value, staying at 21st in the list with a valuation of US$470 million.

This year’s rankings were announced as more details started to emerge about the NHL’s 2020/21 season. Having initially targeted 1st January to begin play, ESPN reports that the league is now working towards a 13th January start date, with a truncated schedule of 52 or 56 games.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said earlier this week that the NHL is working on plans to temporarily realign for this season, which could include one division for the league’s seven Canadian teams due to the current travel restrictions between the United States and Canada.

“There are a lot of things we have to do to return to play,” Bettman told The Maccabi USA Sports Show. “For us to return to play, we’re not going to play 82 games, obviously, and we have travel issues because of the restrictions at the border between Canada and the US. You can't go back and forth, so we're actually going to have to realign.

“If everything stays the way it is, we're probably going to have to have a Canadian division and realign in the US, and we're trying to focus on dealing with all of those challenges.”

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