Sports·The Buzzer

The NHL's wealth is concentrated (and other takeaways from Forbes' valuations)

CBC Sports' daily newsletter unpacks the most interesting stuff from Forbes' annual look at the NHL's finances, including how a handful of big local TV deals are driving revenue.

A handful of big local TV deals are powering the league

Montreal and Toronto have the two richest local TV contracts in the league. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

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Here's what you need to know right now from the world of sports:

NHL franchise values are down — but not as much as you might think

Forbes released its annual assessment of the league's finances today and, as usual, there are some interesting things to unpack. Maybe even moreso this year because of the impact of the pandemic.

According to Forbes' figures, the average value of an NHL franchise dropped by two per cent in the past year, to $653 million US. That's almost exactly what Seattle paid two years ago for an expansion team. And it doesn't seem too bad considering the last month of the 2019-20 regular season was wiped out by the pandemic, the entire playoffs happened without fans and the 2020-21 season still hasn't started and will likely be shortened by about a third when it does.

But still, this is the first year since 2001 that the average franchise value declined. And league revenue fell 14 per cent last season (to $4.4 billion), according to Forbes. Another number that seems to back owners' claims that they're feeling the pinch right now: operating income fell 68 per cent.

The big guys at the top are doing fine, though. For the sixth year in a row, the New York Rangers have the top franchise value ($1.65 billion). Next are Toronto ($1.5B), Montreal ($1.34B), Chicago ($1.1B) and Boston ($1B). Those five teams, boosted by their lavish local television contracts, accounted for nearly a quarter of the NHL's revenue by Forbes' estimates. Take them away and the league goes from a profitable business to one that loses $50 million.

Somewhat surprisingly, Montreal had the richest TV deal, raking in $50 million. Toronto was next at $40M. The Rangers had the fattest American deal at $35M. For context, the NHL's national TV contracts (with Rogers in Canada and NBC in the U.S.) pay each team only $20M. As Forbes notes, that's a fraction of the $260 million each NFL team gets every year.

As for the other Canadian teams, Vancouver ranks 10th in franchise value at $725 million, Edmonton 14th ($550M), Calgary 20th ($480M), Ottawa 26th ($430M) and Winnipeg 27th ($385M).

Two more interesting tidbits: the least-valuable team is Arizona ($285M), and the Stanley Cup champs lost money. According to Forbes, Tampa Bay (which ranks 21st in franchise value at $460M) posted an operating loss of $11 million en route to winning the Cup in the bubble.

Tampa Bay was the best team on the ice last season, but it didn't show in their bottom line. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)


Looks like we're getting an all-Canadian NHL division this year. Commissioner Gary Bettman said yesterday that it's "probably" going to happen when the season resumes, which will be Jan. 13 if the league and the players hit their latest target. There's really no choice but to have the seven Canadian-based teams play only each other this season. The federal government made it clear in denying the Blue Jays' and Raptors' applications to play out of Toronto that it will not allow teams to come and go across the border. So when the NHL and the players' association finally reach their return-to-play deal, expect to see an all-Canadian division along with a realignment of the 24 U.S.-based teams for the upcoming regular season.

The MLS Cup final is set. Seattle pulled off a wild late rally to beat Minnesota 3-2 in the Western Conference final last night, earning a date with Eastern champ Columbus in the championship match. Columbus was the No. 3 seed in the East and Seattle was No. 2 in the West, but Columbus gets to host because it had the better regular-season record. Seattle won the MLS Cup last year and in 2016 and this is its fourth trip to the final in five years. Columbus' only title came in 2008. The match is Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET.

The final golf major of the year tees off tomorrow. That's right, in December. The U.S. Women's Open was supposed to be held in early June until the pandemic forced a postponement. Luckily, it's in Houston, where the forecast for Thursday's opening round calls for sunny skies and a daytime high of 23 Celsius. Two Canadians are playing: world No. 6 Brooke Henderson and 99th-ranked Alena Sharp. Henderson had strong showings at two of the three women's majors played so far this year. After missing the cut at the Women's British Open in August, she lost a three-way playoff to tie for second at the ANA Inspiration in September and placed sixth in the Women's PGA Championship in October. For more on what to look for in the U.S. Open, watch this video.

And finally…

Meet the Canadian Coach K.

In terms of fame and money, he can't touch Mike Krzyzewski, the iconic Duke coach who's won five NCAA titles, owns the all-time-record for college basketball wins (1,157) and reportedly makes $9 million US a year. But, in his 45 years coaching the men's team at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Steve Konchalski has racked up a Canadian college basketball record 918 victories and won three national titles.

Konchalski is 75 now, and this season was supposed to be his last hurrah. He planned to retire and hand the team over to assistant Tyrell Vernon after St. FX hosted the U Sports Final 8 championship tournament this coming March. But the event was cancelled and St. FX's season postponed due to the pandemic. There's still hope that a few exhibition games might be possible this winter, but Konchalski won't get the send-off he earned. Read more about the coach's unparalleled career here.

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