Winnipeg Jets co-owner and governor Mark Chipman dropped a bombshell at a press conference today, announcing the Jets will not be a revenue-sharing team for 2011-12.
The assumption far and wide -- including by the team until very recently -- was that the Jets, playing in the NHL's smallest building and in its smallest market, would need to participate in the league's welfare system to make a go of it.
True North Sports and Entertainment won’t know for absolute certain until the league’s revenues and finances are audited after the playoffs are over, but Chipman’s actual point was that revenues for the NHL’s first season back in Winnipeg have exceeded expectations to the point the Jets could well be in the league’s top 15 of revenue.
If they’re not, they’ll be close to that, and any revenue-sharing amount that would come to them would be negligible.
Chipman wouldn’t disclose the Jets’ number for 2011-12, but given his statements it’s likely just less than $100 million.
The result is True North’s revenues for its first season in the NHL are just about what was budgeted, that the team generated its projected number without the help of the NHL sharing program.
"Because our revenues exceeded what we expected them to be, we don’t participate in sharing," Chipman said today. "In the end, we’re going to be in the exact same place we expected them to be. Which we feel good about."
To qualify for the revenue-sharing program, a team must be in the bottom half of the NHL in per-team revenue, be in a TV market of less than about two million and it must also meeting ticket-sales and other revenue minimums.
The Jets’ home, the MTS Centre, has been sold out all season at 15,004 seats and it’s believed the club’s media and broadcast revenues, as well as merchandise revenues, are responsible for most of the amount that has exceeded expectations.
"When we first modeled this business, we did so quite carefully," Chipman said. "We had the benefit of those years leading up and we looked at where we thought we would fit in. Initially, we thought we’d be a (revenue) share team. And so we studied that model very carefully.
"We thought we were going to be dependent on it. So we spent time with teams like Nashville that have managed their way through that process very well. As it turns out, our revenues have exceeded the point at which we are allowed to participate in revenue sharing so we feel really good about that."
Among his other comments today, Chipman several times expressed his gratitude to Jets’ fans for their passionate support all season.
He said the team would be willing to spend money on free agents this off-season but promised the club would be sticking to its plan to develop its own young talent.
Also today, Chipman said he couldn’t offer a lot of hope to those on the club’s season-ticket waiting list for next season. Based on how many season-ticket holders bought possible playoff tickets, Chipman said he thought there would only be a small number of lucky hopefuls who move from the waiting list into season tickets for 2012-13.
He also said that fans at Saturday’s final regular-season game at the MTS Centre can expect to see some special video messages during the game about the team’s first season in Winnipeg.