After a brief brush with disaster with the lockout of 2012-13, the NHL has returned with full force. While hockey may not be as big a money draw as the NFL, there are still some very lucrative franchises on the ice. There are currently 30 teams in the NHL, spanning all across the United States and into Canada. Hockey is definitely more popular in the Northern states, especially the Northeast, because they get the type of weather that will permit children to play pond hockey on bodies of frozen water in wintertime. Perhaps this is why the two least lucrative teams in the entire league are the Phoenix Coyotes and St. Louis Blues.
Hockey fans are a unique breed because hockey is such a different sport. Where else can you see 6'5", 250 pound goons glide effortlessly across vast ice surfaces on blades of steel? Some casual hockey fans only like to watch matches for the fights, but while a good round of fisticuffs is enough to get any hockey fan's blood flowing, it's a small aspect of the game. Real fans recognize the subtle nuances that take place with every play. Defense, offense, goaltending; all of these aspects are crucial for a great hockey team and provide hours of speculatory fun for fans and analysts alike. With so many diehard hockey fanatics, it's easy to see why so many teams in the NHL have a value in the nine figure range. The following list comprises the 10 most valuable hockey teams in the NHL.
10 Los Angeles Kings - $450 Million in 2013
The Los Angeles Kings were once a premier team in the National Hockey League. Though they haven't done much since the Great One, Wayne Gretzky, left to play for the St. Louis Blues in 1996, the Kings are still one of the wealthiest teams in the league. This is largely due to the massive home demographic that they enjoy. Los Angeles is the second-largest market in the United States (right after New York) and there are always plenty of tourists from all across the world who love to stop in and catch a hockey game. For this reason, LA is one of the few warm cities to make this top 10 list. The team's value is about $470 million and primary owner, Philip Anschutz, has an estimated net worth of $10 billion. Anschutz made his fortune from drilling, railroads and oil before he purchased the Kings in 1995. Anschultz also own stocks in the LA Lakers and the Staples Center (the Kings' home ice) and co-founded the MLS making him arguably one of the most influential men in the Los Angeles sports scene, if not North America as a whole.
9 Detroit Red Wings - $470 Million in 2013
Hailing from the Motor City are the Detroit Red Wings. This legendary team has been in the NHL since 1926. Known as the Detroit Cougars until 1930 and then the Falcons until 1932, the team finally settled on their current name and the rest is history. The Red Wings have a net worth of $470 million mainly because they're the most successful American team in the NHL with 11 Championships to their credit. Tickets in Joe Louis Arena can go for as much as $874 a piece, but it doesn't matter because the Wings are annual contenders, having not missed the playoffs since the 1989-90 season. They don't call Detroit Hockey Town for nothing.
8 Pittsburgh Penguins - $480 Million in 2013
The Penguins have a rich history with the steel city, hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup three times since their inception in 1967. The Pens brought home the cup in 1991 and 1992 thanks in part to legendary forward and franchise hero Mario Lemieux. They did it again in 2009, this time with superstar captain Sidney Crosby leading the team. Tickets to see the Penguins play at home can range from $15 for upper level seats to $459 for center ice. Even so, the past four years have seen record-breaking attendance numbers as the team has averaged over 18,000 spectators per game.
7 Philadelphia Flyers - $500 Million in 2013
The Flyers from Philly have been playing in the city of brotherly love since 1967. This team is fondly referred to as the Broad Street bullies because of their physical style of play. Despite their current struggles and last year's disappointing season, the Flyers have been a perennial playoff contender, missing the postseason only twice in the past 18 years. Attendance is high at the Wells Fargo Center, averaging almost 20,000 fans per game for the past ten seasons. Tickets can sell for as low as $18 for the nosebleeds but seating in one of the 100 suites will set a fan back a cool $1,500. The Flyers have an estimated net worth of $500 million this year.
6 Boston Bruins - $600 Million in 2013
The big, bad Bruins still live up the reputation they've been establishing for themselves since their first years in the NHL. Bean Town's hockey club was founded in 1924 making them the third-oldest team in the league behind only the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens. The Bruins played their games in the legendary Boston Garden until 1995 when they moved to the arena now known as TD Garden. Like most successful Hockey teams, the Bruins have suite seating that can go for as much as $1,800 a pop. Being the league's oldest American team and having one of the largest fan bases in the NHL, the Bruins are worth an estimated $600 million.
5 Chicago Blackhawks - $625 Million in 2013
Chi town is the third most populous city in the United States and home to the fourth wealthiest hockey team in the NHL. The Blackhawks have been playing hockey in The Windy City since 1926 and that nearly 100-year history definitely factors into their popularity. Any fan with $3,700 to spare can have a seat in the suites, but center ice seats typically go for around $300. The club's attendance has exploded in the past 6 years, posting the highest numbers in the franchise's history. The defending Stanley Cup Champions' net worth is right around $625 million.
4 Vancouver Canucks - $700 Million in 2013
Vancouver is the first Canadian franchise to make the list. The Canucks joined the NHL in 1970 after previously being part of the PCHL. Their home tickets are quite expensive starting at around $60 CDN, but that doesn't stop the fans from packing Rogers Arena. This past season Vancouver enjoyed record attendance with over 19,000 fans per game. For the true diehard (or the insanely rich), penthouse suites can cost nearly $7,000 depending on the popularity of the visiting team. Their loyal fanbase has helped earn the Canucks a net worth of $700 million for 2013.
3 Montreal Canadiens - $775 Million in 2013
The Canadiens round out the top three as yet another Canadian team making the list. This franchise is the oldest in the league and the only one to pre-date the NHL. They were officially founded in 1909 and played in the Nation Hockey Association until the creation of the NHL in 1917. Montrealers have always lived for hockey and it shows in the Habs' league-leading 24 Stanley Cup wins. Since the departure of the Montreal Expos in 2004, the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge has become even more dear to sports fans in the city. Bought by the Molson family for $500 million in 2009, the Habs' value has risen considerably. They have not failed to sell out a game at the Bell Centre since 2004, even at an average ticket price of around $100. The Canadiens are worth an estimated $775 million dollars, making them one of the wealthiest and most storied franchises in professional sports.
2 New York Rangers - $850 Million in 2013
The Rangers have several factors working in their favour that help make them the second most valuable hockey team in the NHL. First off, they have the luxury of playing in the largest NHL market in North America. Secondly, most New Yorkers prefer watching them play as opposed to the second-fiddle New York Islanders. As is the case with the Yankees/Mets and the Giants/Jets, even though New York is big enough to house two sports franchises within the same league, there is always one that receives more love than the other. Being an original-six team, the Rangers were the first American NHL club to win the Stanley Cup and have done so on three other occasions. Today, the team is worth $850 million.
1 Toronto Maple Leafs - $1.15 Billion in 2013
With a value of around $1.15 billion, this gramatically incorrect hockey team is the wealthiest in the NHL by far. Having been bought by Bell Canada and Rogers Communications in 2012 for a tidy sum of a billion dollars, the Leafs have seen their stock continue to rise. The Maple Leafs get a lot of air time on national networks like CBC and their Saturday night games are regularly featured on the Hockey Night In Canada program. They are the only team on the list with a net worth in the 10 figure range, making them more valuable than the majority of NFL franchises. Seeing as how every other original-six team made the cut, it's no surprise that Toronto emerges on top. With the second-most Stanley Cup wins at 13, and a mega-fan base behind them in the largest city in Canada, the Toronto Maple Leafs sit strong as the most valuable franchise in hockey.