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GM Hockey » The other NHL teams » General Hockey talk » The NHL has its most profitable year in the middle of a recession: Forbes Magazine report

The NHL has its most profitable year in the middle of a recession: Forbes Magazine report

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FORBES, the acknowledged authoritative source on the world of business, publishes his annual report on the business of hockey today, appropriately titled...wait for it:


The Business Of Hockey, 2009
November 11, 2009
The league scores record profits despite some very troubled franchises.

The NHL has long run a distant fourth among the North American professional sports leagues, befuddled with bogus investors (John Spano, William "Boots" Del Biaggio), rogue raiders (Jim Balsillie), television ratings you need a microscope to see and teams with huge losses (Florida Panthers) and debt woes (Phoenix Coyotes).

So leave it to the National Hockey League to have its most profitable year smack in the middle of a recession.


Fascinating reading, with facts and figures that may surprise some skeptics.


Some of the points of interest cited by Forbes may surprise those who contend the NHL is in financial trouble. These include:

  • "During the 2008-09 campaign, the league posted an average operating profit (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) of $6.1 million, the highest figure in the 12 years."

  • Per Forbes' own tracking of the league's finances: "Aggregate revenue (including proceeds team owners get from non-hockey events at their arenas) last year increased $70 million compared with the 2008-07 season, to $2.82 billion. Despite the sour economy and tighter credit markets, the average NHL franchise is worth $223 million, $3 million more than the previous year.

  • Corporate sponsorship is significant: new NHL partners such as Honda, Cisco, Bell Canada, McDonalds, Visa and Energizer "have helped boost gate receipts and sponsorship revenue. The former rose 1.5% during the 2008-09 season, to $1.19 billion, while the latter climbed 1.9%, to $339 million."

  • Forbes cites the NHL's biggest revenue growth area last year as local TV contracts: "Chicago, Detroit and Toronto all signed huge new contracts that kicked off last season, boosting overall local media revenues for the league 15% to $356 million."

  • Mitigating attendance fluctations, Forbes also points to TV and the NHL's presence on the Web: "Television and Web traffic also indicate growing interest. True, ratings on Versus (0.2) and NBC (1.0) are only good enough to generate $80 million in rights fees for the league. But the positive trend in viewers portends a growing fan base at a time when the overall economy was shrinking. More evidence: During the playoffs, the number of unique monthly visitors to increased 33% year-over-year to 12.2 million."

  • Perhaps most interesting is how the current CBA is actually putting money in the owners' pockets. "Each NHL team got a further boost to the bottom line thanks to the league's collective bargaining agreement. The CBA called for players to receive 56.7% of hockey-related revenue last season. Salaries exceeded that level last season and $207.6 million--12.9% of player salaries and bonuses--reverted back to the owners. The 2006-07 season was the only other season that owners got a refund, when players lost 2.5% of their salaries."

The Forbes report also goes into comprehensive detail about how the business of each team is run, and how and why franchises are valuable.

The numbers Forbes enumerates appear to contradict the nay sayers who claim the NHL is in a downward financial spiral.

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