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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets' value skyrockets after first season

Posted: 11/29/2012 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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What a difference a relocation makes.

The Winnipeg Jets were one of the fastest-growing franchises in terms of value in the NHL over the past year, according to Forbes magazine.

In its annual report on the state of the league's 30 teams, the business bible listed the Jets as the 20th most valuable franchise at $200 million, a 22 per cent increase from a year ago when its worth was estimated at $164 million and 24th in the league. (All figures are in US dollars.)

After selling out every home game last year, Forbes estimated the Jets brought in $105 million in revenue and turned a $13.3 million profit.

Two years ago, the Atlanta Thrashers, which became the reborn Winnipeg Jets in the summer of 2011, were valued at $135 million.

Mike Ozanian, executive editor at Forbes, said True North Sports & Entertainment's ownership of both the team and its home, the 15,003-seat MTS Centre, paid significant dividends.

"It gave them a lot of incentive to keep costs in line and they marketed the team very well. They've gone out and secured sponsorship and suite sales for a number of years that has the team very well grounded there," he said.

Operating in the league's smallest market and in the smallest building did not have a negative impact on the team, he said. In fact, it probably forced True North to take a realistic view of its situation and that likely helped. True North knew it wasn't going to secure a gigantic television deal and it didn't base any decisions on making a profit on any "real estate schemes" or having to make the third round of the playoffs, Ozanian said.

"They built a team that fits their community and their market and they're focused on hockey and their fans," he said.

The Jets' business plan reminded Ozanian of how the Green Bay Packers -- the team in the smallest market in the NFL -- operates.

"They don't get one huge sponsor but they get a lot of (smaller) sponsors. They have a modest economic game plan that they make work," he said.

It's also unusual, Ozanian noted, for an NHL team to turn a profit without making the playoffs and operating in an arena without an NBA basketball team as a co-tenant.

"It's just good management," he said.

The Toronto Maple Leafs were the first franchise in the NHL to hit the $1-billion mark -- that's up 92 per cent from a year ago -- according to Forbes, while the St. Louis Blues were deemed to be at the bottom of the heap at $130 million, just $4 million less the Phoenix Coyotes, or former Winnipeg Jets, at No. 29.

Winnipeg's success should boost the spirits of hockey fans in Quebec City because it shows strong hockey markets in Canada can thrive, Ozanian said.

On the labour front, he said if the league increased subsidies of rich teams to poor ones from $150 million to $200 million and the players and owners split hockey-related revenue 50-50, the league's overall profitability would increase.

But that still wouldn't mean teams such as the Coyotes, Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning, Anaheim Ducks and Columbus Blue Jackets wouldn't have trouble making money unless they went at least two rounds in the playoffs.

A spokesperson for the Winnipeg Jets was not available to comment on the Forbes report.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Leafs reach $1 billion

1Toronto Maple Leafs$1 billion

2New York Rangers$750 million

3Montreal Canadiens$575M

4Chicago Blackhawks$350M

5Boston Bruins$348M

6Detroit Red Wings$346M

7Vancouver Canucks$342M

8Philadelphia Flyers$336M

9Pittsburgh Penguins$288M

10Los Angeles Kings$276M

11Washington Capitals$250M

12Calgary Flames$245M

13Dallas Stars$240M

14Edmonton Oilers$225M

15San Jose Sharks$223M

16Ottawa Senators$220M

17Minnesota Wild$218M

18Colorado Avalanche$210M

19New Jersey Devils$205M

20Winnipeg Jets$200M

21Anaheim Ducks$192M

22Buffalo Sabres$175M

23Tampa Bay Lightning$174M

24Florida Panthers$170M

25Nashville Predators$167M

26Carolina Hurricanes$162M

27New York Islanders$155M

28Columbus Blue Jackets$145M

29Phoenix Coyotes$134M

30St Louis Blues$130M

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 29, 2012 D3

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