Forbes ranks Kings 10th in value, Ducks 21st

Forbes magazine published its annual valuation of NHL franchises on Wednesday and anointed the Toronto Maple Leafs as the league’s first billion-dollar club.

Forbes’ numbers are sure to cause a lot of discussion, partly because individual teams and the league always dispute the calculations. Forbes relies on estimates in many cases and public information (such as the value of TV rights deals) and doesn’t have access to teams’ financial ledgers.

Its findings show a greater economic gulf between the league’s strongest and weakest teams even as there’s more parity on the ice. Among those findings: The three most profitable teams accounted for 83% of the league’s $250 million income for the 2011-12 season, and 13 of the league’s 30 teams lost money before non-cash expenses and interest payments.

According to Forbes, the Maple Leafs — who haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1967 — are worth $1 billion in part because they’re owned by a huge telecommunications company and they can leverage their TV rights into pots of gold in the hockey-crazed Toronto market.

Forbes’ top five are the Maple Leafs, New York Rangers ($750 million), Montreal Canadiens ($575 million), Chicago Blackhawks ($350 million) and Boston Bruins ($348 million).

The Kings were ranked 10th at a value of $276 million and the Ducks were 21st at a value of $192 million. Forbes said the Ducks’ operating loss of $10.8 million was the league’s fourth-largest last season and attributed that to the team’s failure to make the playoffs and the lack of an NBA co-tenant at the Honda Center.

Also worth reading: an accompanying piece on fans and how the NHL has grown its audience despite higher ticket prices and two lockouts in the last eight years.

The NHL, of course, remains embroiled in a labor dispute with the players’ association after locking players out on Sept. 15. The two sides were scheduled to meet with federal mediators Wednesday to get help in resolving a disagreement that has led the NHL to cancel games through Dec. 14 — more than a third of the regular season — and the all-star game.

-Helene Elliott