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Forbes: 3 NHL teams worth at least $1 billion for first time

For the first time, the NHL now has three teams worth at least $1 billion, according to Forbes.
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For the first time, the NHL has three teams worth at least $1 billion, according to Forbes.

In light of the league's new Canadian television deal with Rogers Communications, and in the second year under the current collective bargaining agreement, the Toronto Maple Leafs ($1.3 billion), New York Rangers ($1.1 billion) and Montreal Canadiens ($1 billion) are the NHL's first trio of teams worth at least $1 billion.

The Maple Leafs are the league's most valuable team for the ninth straight year, according to Forbes. The Florida Panthers are the least valuable at $190 million. Earlier this month, Panthers co-owner Doug Cifu said in a radio interview that the team lost about $114,000 per day last year.

The average NHL team's worth rose to $490 million, up 18.6 percent from last year. Over the course of the 2013-14 season, the NHL posted revenue of $3.7 billion, a 9.7 percent increase from the league's last full season in 2011-12. Forbes credits the new CBA for the rise in profitability, as the agreement lowered the salary cap to 50 percent of revenue from 57 percent.

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The NHL's TV deal with Rogers, which includes rights to all NHL games in Canada (regular season and postseason), is also worth 2.6 times more annually than the league's previous Canadian deals.

As Forbes points out, the NHL lags behind the other three major North American sports leagues—MLB, NBA and NFL—in revenue sharing. The league's six most valuable teams—in addition to the Maple Leafs, Rangers and Candiens, the Chicago Blackhawks ($825 million), Vancouver Canucks  ($800 million) and Boston Bruins ($750 million)—accounted for 76 percent ($346 million) of the NHL's total operating income for 2013-14. The league's overall operating income increased 82 percent to $453 million.

For comparison, the average NFL team is worth $1.43 billion. The most valuable NFL team, the Dallas Cowboys, is worth $3.2 billion. In the NBA, the average team is worth $634 million, and the New York Knicks are the most valuable franchise at $1.4 billion. In MLB, the average franchise worth is $811 million, and the New York Yankees are the most valuable at $2.5 billion.

Individually, no NHL players made Fortune's Fortunate 50 list of the highest paid American athletes in 2014 or the International 20 list.

- Mike Fiammetta