Forbes magazine published its annual valuation of NHL franchises on Wednesday and anointed the Toronto Maple Leafs as the league’s first billion-dollar club.
Forbes’ numbers are sure to cause a lot of discussion, partly because individual teams and the league always dispute the calculations. Forbes relies on estimates in many cases and public information (such as the value of TV rights deals) and doesn’t have access to teams’ financial ledgers.
Its findings show a greater economic gulf between the league’s strongest and weakest teams even as there’s more parity on the ice. Among those findings: The three most profitable teams accounted for 83% of the league’s $250 million income for the 2011-12 season, and 13 of the league’s 30 teams lost money before non-cash expenses and interest payments.
According to Forbes, the Maple Leafs — who haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1967 — are worth $1 billion in part because they’re owned by a huge telecommunications company and they can leverage their TV rights into pots of gold in the hockey-crazed Toronto market.