The Toronto Maple Leafs were listed as the most valuable franchise, and also became the first NHL team to be valued at over a billion dollars. The first six spots were all held by teams that comprised the Original Six teams in the league, following the Maple Leafs were the New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins and the Red Wings.
The Wings also had the second-best “player-cost-to-win” ratio, an analysis of salary measured against regular season and playoff success. They trailed only the San Jose Sharks for best bang for the buck. The Maple Leafs were ranked last in that category. The Wings have been in the top ten for player salaries on an almost yearly basis, but have managed to translate that spending into on-ice success. Their highest-paid players are Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, who each make over $6 million per season.
Ilitch, founder of Little Caesar’s Pizza, bought the Red Wings franchise from Bruce Norris in 1982 for $8 million. He also owns the Detroit Tigers. During Ilitch’s ownership, The Red Wings have won four Stanley Cup Championships and reached the playoffs for 21 consecutive seasons.
A third Forbes study, analyzing fans based on ticket prices, merchandise sale, attendance, television ratings and social media gave the Pittsburgh Penguins the top spot, followed by the Canadiens and Maple Leafs. The worst fan bases were the Phoenix Coyotes, New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning.