The Toronto Maple Leafs may have only qualified for the NHL's post-season once over the past 10 years - pulling it off in a shortened 48-game season - but they're still the league's most valuable franchise, according to Forbes' annual rankings.
The last time Forbes ranked the 30 NHL teams according to value was in November of 2013. Toronto finished atop the list with an estimated $1.15 billion worth and the Rangers came in second at $850 million.
Wednesday, Forbes released its top 50 list of the most valuable sports franchises in the world. The top of the list was dominated by soccer teams, with Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United taking the top three spots. Thirty of the 32 NFL franchises made the top 50 (Jacksonville and Oakland failed to make the cut) and six baseball teams made it. From the NHL, only Toronto cracked the all-world list.
The Leafs were sold to Bell Canada and Rogers Communications for $1.32 billion in 2012 and the two huge corporations co-own the team today. The Maple Leafs comes in at No. 26 on the Forbes list with their $1.15 billion valuation, just ahead of the Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers and right behind the Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos.
In the story, Forbes explains how it evaluates the teams for these rankings:
"Forbes has valued teams in the major sports leagues since 1998. Our team values are enterprise values (equity plus debt) based on current venue deals (unless a new venue is pending). The top 50 list is based on our published valuations for the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, Nascar and soccer over the past year, which were all before the proposed Clippers sale. The average team in the top 50 is worth $1.34 billion, up 8% over last year. There are 38 teams worth $1 billion versus 33 last year. There weren’t any teams worth $2 billion three years ago; now there are six. Minimum entry for the top 50 is $856 million (AC Milan) compared to $586 million four years ago."
The potential sale of the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion, which would go far above their estimated worth, could set a new precedent for other sports team sales. Whether that total for the Clippers is an exception to the rule created out of an unusual circumstance, or if it actually does influence the market remains to be seen.
But the Maple Leafs are the only NHL club to crack Forbes' Top 50, eh? Maybe they'll invest some of that in an advanced stats/analytics department - or in something that would bring their on-ice fortunes in line with their overflowing bank account.