There's a certain mindset among some, but not all, Canadian hockey fans that the NHL universe contains six large planets and 24 moons that orbit around them. It's the kind of mindset that can literally alter unbalanced regular season schedules in order to get young superstars from the Eastern Conference shipped over to Western Canadian cities; the sort of thinking that feeds those nasty theories about how the NHL "needs Canadian team X" to succeed for the betterment of business, hockey and mankind in general. And, of course, it provides the fuel for arguments about placing more teams "nord of da border."
Well, according to ace sports business reporter Rick Westhead of The Toronto Star, it turns out some occasional egomania from Canadian hockey fans is completely warranted. Citing "a secret NHL report detailing the ticket revenues of its 30 teams," Westhead reveals that the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks account for "31 per cent of the $1.1 billion (U.S.) in league ticket revenue":
The increase in the value of the Canadian dollar may be responsible for as much as half of the league's revenue gains since the NHL went through the lockout of 2004-05, say several sources familiar with NHL finances.
"If you take out the Canadian teams, which have done so well since the lockout largely because of the Canadian dollar, the league's revenues are actually only growing at a 2 per cent clip per year," says an executive with a U.S.-based NHL team, who requested anonymity. "It's not enough. We're not really growing as a sport, and we're still invisible in the U.S."
The money quote comes from former Vancouver Canucks owner Arthur Griffiths: "This really makes the case for another team in Canada, whether it's Hamilton, Winnipeg or Quebec City." The question is whether that's going to be an expansion franchise or a relocated U.S. franchise. Westhead indentifies some teams lagging behind the Canadian franchises in ticket revenue:
In fact, eight U.S. teams - the Coyotes, the Florida Panthers, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Islanders, Atlanta Thrashers, Washington Capitals, Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues - generated less than half the amount of ticket revenue this season of the Edmonton Oilers and Ottawa Senators. At $1.2 million in ticket revenue per game, the Oilers and Senators garnered the least amount of ticket money among Canadian clubs.
It's a great read and an important story, especially as potential NHL city Kansas City prepares to welcome hockey to its new arena this fall. Based on the numbers, can Las Vegas and Kansas City still claim their place in line ahead of cities like Winnipeg and Hamilton?