NHL team values, profits rise even in recession: report

Thu Nov 12, 2009 11:22am EST
 
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CHICAGO (Reuters) - The National Hockey League had its most profitable year in 2008-2009 and team values rose $3 million to an average of $223 million despite a recession that curbed fan and sponsor spending, Forbes magazine said.

Big revivals in markets like Chicago, Pittsburgh and Washington, as well as new deals with such companies as Honda Motor Co Ltd, Cisco Systems Inc and McDonald's Corp helped boost gate receipts and sponsorship revenue, according to the magazine's annual study.

The teams dubbed the "Original Six" ranked among the top seven most valuable of the league's 30 teams, with the Philadelphia Flyers at No. 5 the only interloper, according to the list, which was released late on Wednesday.

The most valuable team was the Toronto Maple Leafs, which saw its estimated value rise 5 percent to $470 million, Forbes said. It was followed by the New York Rangers (up 1 percent to $416 million), Montreal Canadiens (up 2 percent to $339 million) and the Detroit Red Wings (up 11 percent to $337 million).

Other teams showing large gains in value included the Chicago Blackhawks (up 26 percent to No. 7 at $258 million); the Washington Capitals, with league's most valuable player Alexander Ovechkin (up 15 percent to No. 20 at $183 million); and the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins (up 14 percent to No. 11 at $222 million), Forbes said.

The teams showing the largest drops in value included the Colorado Avalanche (down 11 percent to No. 15 at $205 million), and the Atlanta Thrashers (down 10 percent to No. 29 at $143 million), the magazine said.

The Dallas Stars, whose ownership group was declared in default in April after missing an interest payment to creditors, also saw a 10 percent drop in value to No. 8 at $246 million, Forbes said. The lowest valued team at $138 million was the Phoenix Coyotes, which filed for bankruptcy in May and was recently sold to the NHL for $140 million.

The biggest revenue growth area last year for the NHL was local broadcast deals, according to Forbes. New deals in Chicago, Detroit and Toronto helped boost overall local media revenue for the North American sports league 15 percent to $356 million.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman, Editing by Maureen Bavdek)