The gulf is wide between the haves and have-nots in the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs topping the list as the league’s first $1 billion franchise in the Forbes rankings of the 30 teams.
The Florida Panthers, not surprisingly among the lower echelon, nonetheless moved up two spots in 2012 to 24th with a slight increase in value to $170 million. Forbes attributed that to better performance by the team that produced the first playoff appearance since 2000.
Despite a 6-percent boost in attendance, The Panthers ended $12 million in the red, according to Forbes, which said the team’s gate receipts were among the league’s lowest due to huge giveaways of tickets.
The Panthers also ranked last in local television audience with just 13,400 viewers per game for 2011-12. Forbes noted that the Panthers will benefit from a more lucrative cable deal beginning this year along with the 10-year extension on the naming rights deal with BB&T that is expected to net the team $37 million.
However, the lockout by the owners has the entire 2012-13 season in jeopardy. The Panthers were counting on a revenue boost from the new Club Red premium seating area.
So far the league has canceled 422 regular-season games, including the Winter Classic, plus the All-Star Game. In a hard-nosed stance in negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement, NHL owners are aiming to significantly lower payrolls costs. Players receive 57 percent of hockey-related revenue, which Forbes estimated at $3.4 billion for 2011-12.
The players, in stating their case that the system is working well as it stands, can point to the league's 9-percent increase in revenue from the previous year. During that time the average value of NHL teams increased 18 percent to $282 million, Forbes said.
The Panthers ranked just behind the Tampa Bay Lighting, valued at $174 million. The St. Louis Blues were last at $130 million.
Cliff Viner purchased the Panthers for $200 million in 2009.