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Rangers top Forbes' franchise valuations as NHL now boasts four billion-dollar teams

The Rangers, Maple Leafs, Canadiens and Blackhawks are all estimated to be billion-dollar franchises, while the Hurricanes and Blues made big gains from last year's Forbes list.

The NHL’s billion-dollar club is expanding, as the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens have been joined by the Chicago Blackhawks as franchises with an estimated 10-figure valuation.

On Tuesday, Forbes released its annual Business of Hockey report, a look into the financials behind the game, with the Rangers remaining atop the rankings for the third straight year as the NHL as a whole rose 15 percent to an average of $594 million per franchise, according to Forbes’ Mike Ozanian.

After topping the list with a $1.25-billion valuation last season, the Blueshirts increased their worth to $1.5 billion this season. The Maple Leafs overtook the Canadiens, who were valued at $1.25 billion, for second spot on the list, increasing their value by $300 million to a whopping $1.4 billion, thanks in part to a massive arena naming rights deal with Scotiabank. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks, who’ve flirted with a billion-dollar valuation over the past two years, rose to an even $1 billion. That’s up $15 million from last season’s estimated value of $985 million. Rounding out the top five and remaining in fifth spot on the Forbes list are the Boston Bruins, valued at $890 million.

The two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, meanwhile, finished 10th with a $650-million valuation, but managed to crack the top five in both operating income, with $41 million, and revenue, where they raked in nearly $200 million. It doesn’t hurt when you’re selling Stanley Cup championship merchandise for a second straight season, of course.

The least shocking valuation of all is that of the Vegas Golden Knights, who finished slightly above the middle of the pack at an even $500 million. It’s not all that difficult to figure out where Forbes got that number, either, given the ownership group, led by Bill Foley, plunked down that exact amount as part of the NHL’s required expansion fee.

Surprisingly, the biggest increase in the Forbes valuation belongs to the Carolina Hurricanes. In December 2016, the Hurricanes came in at the very bottom of the list with an estimated value of $230 million, and it’s not as though things have gotten better from an on-ice or in-house perspective over the past year. Carolina saw a single point increase in the standings as their post-season drought stretched to eight seasons and attendance actually dipped from little more than 12,000 per outing in 2015-16 to an average of 11,776 during the 2016-17 campaign. Still, the Hurricanes’ valuation increased to $370 million, a rise of 61 percent. Such a rise is thanks in part to an estimated operating income of $3 million, the first time Carolina has been out of the red in several seasons.

While the percentage increase is the largest, however, Carolina really only moved up the list by three spots to 27th. That’s not the biggest climb up the rankings. Instead, that title belongs to the St. Louis Blues, who went from 23rd in Forbes’ valuations last season ($310 million) to 17th spot on this year’s list, at an estimated value of $450 million. There has been steady growth for the Blues over the past several seasons, as they’ve gone from a $130-million valuation in 2012 to more than three times as much in 2017, and a sizeable increase in revenue and operating income are the main reasons. St. Louis, which had an operating income of $3.2 million in 2016, nearly tripled that figure to $9.2 million over the past year. Revenues also increased by $21 million.

On the opposite end of the spectrum were the Philadelphia Flyers, Dallas Stars and New York Islanders, each of whom saw an increase of just three percent. That didn’t stop the Flyers from remaining one of the league’s most valuable franchises, mind you, as Forbes valued the organization at $740 million. The Stars likewise remained relatively unchanged in the rankings, remaining firmly in the middle of the league with a value of $515 million. The same can’t be said for the Islanders, though, as New York slipped four spots to 22nd on the annual list as their value increased by a mere $10 million. The franchise is eying up a new arena near Belmont park, though, and that could have New York climbing in the near future.

But the Islanders did fare better than the Colorado Avalanche and Winnipeg Jets in terms of falling down the list, who both fell five spots to 24th and 26th, respectively. That said, the Jets did finish middle of the pack in operating income at $10 million, significantly different from the Avalanche, who were estimated to be $400,000 in the red.

Take a look at the full list of valuations below, via Forbes:

1. New York Rangers — $1.5 billion

2. Toronto Maple Leafs — $1.4 billion

3. Montreal Canadiens — $1.25 billion

4. Chicago Blackhawks — $1 billion

5. Boston Bruins — $890 million

6. Los Angeles Kings — $750 million

7. Philadelphia Flyers — $740 million

8. Vancouver Canucks — $730 million

9. Detroit Red Wings — $700 million

10. Pittsburgh Penguins — $650 milloin

11. Washington Capitals — $625 million

12. Edmonton Oilers — $520 million

13. Dallas Stars — $515 million

14. Vegas Golden Knights — $500 million

15. San Jose Sharks — $490 million

16. Anaheim Ducks — $460 million

17. St. Louis Blues — $450 million

18. Minnesota Wild — $440 million

19. Calgary Flames — $430 million

20. Ottawa Senators — $420 million

21. New Jersey Devils — $400 million

22. New York Islanders — $395 million

23. Tampa Bay Lightning — $390 million

24. Colorado Avalanche — $385 million

25. Nashville Predators — $380 million

26. Winnipeg Jets — $375 million

27. Carolina Hurricanes — $370 million

28. Buffalo Sabres — $350 million

29. Columbus Blue Jackets — $315 million

30. Florida Panthers — $305 million

31. Arizona Coyotes — $300 million



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