After last-year's lockout, the 2013-24 season is in many ways a fresh start for the NHL. With a 10-year collective bargaining agreement in place, the future is bright for the fastest sport on two legs.
According to Sports Business Journal, league executives expect an additional $1 billion of cumulative revenue over the next three seasons. The last full season generated 3.2 billion in revenue, so this would be the equivalent to a 10% annual increase.
In addition to a new Canadian TV rights deal, the projected increase in revenue will be driven by higher ticket prices. Compared to the start of last season (in January), the average ticket price on the secondary market is up 14%. That is in part being driven by scheduling changes this year, which include a visit from every team in the league.
Additionally, the NHL has increased the number of outdoor games from one to six, as a result of the wildly-successful Winter Classic series, now in it’s sixth year. This year, there are six outdoor games being played from New York to LA, and the average price across all of those games is $456.
By comparison, the average price across the league for this season is $168. At an average price of $456, Winter Classic tickets are not even the most expensive outdoor game. That distinction belong to the first-ever hockey game at Soldier Field between the Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins. Blackhawks tickets for that game have an average price of $672.
The Blackhawks have the second-most expensive average price of any team this year, behind only the Maple Leafs. Their $313 average price is also up 57% from last year, driven by increased demand to see the Stanley Cup champions. While the market has had a lot to do with that, so has the team. In August, they announced a 17% price increase from last year. It’s the second highest price increase in the last two years behind only the Kings. In the past, season ticket holders would have benefited most from that price increase.
Now, however, the teams are making sure they maximize profits. The Blackhawks move illustrates a new reality in the business of sports, which is that in addition to getting bigger, teams and leagues are also getting a lot smarter. For the Blackhawks, that price increase equates to almost $10 million in found money. As far as the league’s $1B estimate, the Blackhawks have already generated 1% of it…even before a single puck has dropped.