The National Hockey League has a decidedly different relationship to money than the Big Three of American sports: football, baseball, and basketball. That is, NHL players aren’t plastered onto anything and everything like NBA players, they aren’t synonymous with the lavish contracts that MLB players are notorious for receiving, and they’re not part of the league that completely decimates everyone else when it comes to ratings and television revenue (the NFL, obviously).
Perhaps because the sport is less lucrative at the top, the NHL has had the most contentious relationship between its owners and players. Hockey is the only major American sport to lose an entire season to a lockout in the last 20 years, when the owners bailed on the 2004-2005 season entirely only 10 years after shrinking the ’94-’95 season all the way down to a mere 48 games, just over half the length of a normal 82-game season. If that sounds oddly familiar, its because the owners did the exact same thing in 2012, when they chopped the ’12-’13 season to 48 games.
And, yes, owners initiate lockouts. Not players. Player-originated work stoppages are called strikes. Any kind of sports lockout is always at the feet of the franchise owners. Just, you know, so everyone’s on the same page with that. Why do owners initiate lockouts? Because they want more money. In that regard, the NHL is exactly like every other sports league. True, the stakes may be a little smaller, but they’re still arguing over how, exactly, the pie is divided. And, like other sports, it takes a large initial investment to get invited to the owners’ party.
With that in mind, here are the seven most valuable franchises in the NHL. All valuations are courtesy of Forbes.