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NHL’s Oilers, Flames thriving despite on-ice struggles

The Hockey Gods haven’t been kind to Alberta’s NHL franchises, but it’s not hurting their bottom lines

Jim Kerr is Alberta Venture's web editor. Get in touch with him at jkerr@albertaventure.com.

Nov 28, 2013

by Jim Kerr

In a lot of ways, hockey fans in Alberta are very much living in the “Dark Ages” of their respective teams.

Both the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames finished in the bottom four of the National Hockey League’s Western Conference last season, things aren’t much better so far this year (both teams have losing records through 24 games) and it’s been a long time since either club played in the postseason (four seasons for the Flames, seven for the Oilers).

Despite the on-ice failures though, it’s anything but the Dark Ages off the ice. Forbes recently released its annual valuation of NHL franchises, and the numbers might shock you.

According to the report, the Calgary Flames increased in value by 71 per cent over the last year to $420 million, while the Edmonton Oilers shot up 78 per cent to $400 million. To put that into perspective, Daryl Katz bought the Oilers for just $170 million in 2008. According to Forbes, the Flames were worth $203 million that same year.

If they’re both so bad on the ice, how are they both so financially strong? For starters, Canadians will pay a whole lot more to go watch a hockey game than their American counterparts.

In fact, the Oilers have the fifth-highest average ticket price at $79 (Toronto leads the way at $120, followed by Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver), and they’re among the top five teams in gate receipts per game, tied with Calgary at $1.6 million. Leading that list was the Maple Leafs ($2.2 million) and the Canadiens ($2.1 million), followed by the Canucks and Rangers ($1.8 million).

Another factor in the strong showing is the new collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and its players association, which instituted a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue between the players and the league’s owners. Based on the numbers from the 2011-12 season, that shift took about $230 million away from the players as a group.

Finally, the fact that the Oilers are moving into an expensive new building with a few thousand more seats also helped to add some value to the club this year.

Basically, until hockey fans in Edmonton and Calgary get so tired of watching their teams lose that they stop showing up, business will be booming for the Oilers and Flames.

List of Canadian NHL teams by current value

1. Toronto Maple Leafs – $1.15 billion

2. Montreal Canadiens – $775 million

3. Vancouver Canucks – $700 million

4. Calgary Flames – $420 million

5. Edmonton Oilers – $400 million

6. Ottawa Senators – $380 million

7. Winnipeg Jets – $340 million

List of Canadian NHL teams by revenue1

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1. Toronto Maple Leafs – $142 million

2. Montreal Canadiens – $127 million

3. Vancouver Canucks – $105 million

4. Calgary Flames – $89 million

5. Ottawa Senators – $83 million

6. Edmonton Oilers – $80 million

7. Winnipeg Jets – $79 million

List of Canadian NHL Teams by operating income2

1. Toronto Maple Leafs – $48.7 million

2. Montreal Canadiens – $29.6 million

3. Vancouver Canucks – $15.8 million

4. Calgary Flames – $11.5 million

5. Edmonton Oilers – $10.3 million

6. Ottawa Senators – $6.8 million

7. Winnipeg Jets – $6.3 million

1 Forbes says its revenue figures “include proceeds from non-NHL events that go to the team owner and subtract arena-generated funds that are used to pay arena debt and are adjusted for the league’s revenue sharing system.”

2 Earnings before taxes, interest, depreciation and amortization

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