An overview of the NHL’s money-losing franchises in hopes of better understanding the factors behind eighteen NHL teams losing money in 2010-11.

One of the main issues driving the current NHL-NHLPA CBA negotiations is the growing number of teams losing money.

Back in November 2011, released its annual “The Business of Hockey” report for 2010-11, listing eighteen NHL franchises which lost money.

We’ll have to wait until November for their report on the 2011-12 NHL season to determine if this total increased, decreased or remained static.

The steady increase in money-losing franchises over the course of the current collective bargain agreement is the reason behind the push by the NHLPA for increased revenue sharing, and why the league wants to reduce the players share of hockey-related revenue and increase their escrow payments.

What follows is my attempt to understand why eighteen NHL teams lost money under a CBA the league claimed would benefit all its franchises.

In Part One, a listing of all the NHL franchises, based up the respective operating incomes (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) provided by, from 2005-06 to 2010-11.


The number of money-losing NHL franchises in 2005-06 was eight. Those teams were the Anaheim Ducks (-0.2), Nashville Predators (-1.1), Florida Panthers (-1.9), Columbus Blue Jackets (-4.0), Atlanta Thrashers (-5.4), Phoenix Coyotes (-6.0), New Jersey Devils (-6.7) and NY Islanders (-9.2).


The number nearly doubled, with fifteen teams losing money. The Blue Jackets (-5.6), Thrashers (-6.5), Panthers (-7.1),  – Predators (-9.4), Coyotes (-11.4), Islanders (-11.6) and Devils (-15.3) made the list again.

Joining them were the Boston Bruins (-0.6), Calgary Flames (-0.7), Minnesota Wild (-1.7), Chicago Blackhawks (-3.6), Buffalo Sabres (-4.9), San Jose Sharks (-5.1)  St. Louis Blues (-5.5), and the Carolina Hurricanes (-7.5), who were the defending Stanley Cup champions that season.


The number fell slightly to twelve for 2007-08. The Predators (-1.3), Thrashers (-6.1), Blue Jackets (-7.1), Islanders (-8.8), Panthers (-9.4), and Coyotes (-9.7) made the list for the third consecutive season.

The Bruins (-3.0), Blues (-8.6), Sabres (-8.9) and Hurricanes (-11.5) made the list for the second straight season.

The Philadelphia Flyers (-1.8) and Washington Capitals (-6.9) made the list for the first time.


The number rose to fourteen teams. The usual suspects – Thrashers (-1.8), Hurricanes (-4.6), Islanders (-5.6), Predators (-5.7), Blue Jackets (-9.9), Panthers (-13.6) and Coyotes (-18.5) – were there, as were the Blues (-2.7), Sabres (-5.2) and Capitals (-4.9).

Returning to the list were the Flames (-0.8) and Sharks (-5.0), while the Ottawa Senators (-3.8) and Tampa Bay Lightning (-2.2) made their debuts.


The list grew to sixteen teams. Of course, the regulars – Islanders (-4.5), Predators (-5.5), Hurricanes (-7.3), Blue Jackets (-7.3), Thrashers (-8.0), Panthers (-9.6) and Coyotes (-20.1) – were there, while the Blues (-6.2), Sabres (-7.9) and Capitals (-9.1) made the list for the third straight season.

The Senators (-3.8), Sharks (-6.2) and Lightning (-7.9) returned for the second straight year, while the Wild (-2.3) returned for the second time in four years, and the Ducks (-5.2) returned for the second time in five seasons.

The Pittsburgh Penguins – defending Stanley Cup Champions that season – made the list for the first time (-1.6).


The list grew to eighteen teams. The Hurricanes (-4.4), Thrashers (-5.2 in their final season in Atlanta before relocating to Winnipeg), Panthers (-7), Predators (-7.5), Islanders (-8.1), Blue Jackets (-13.7) and Coyotes (-24.4) were there, as were the Blues (-2.7), Sabres (-5.6) and Capitals (-7.5).

The Penguins made the list for the second straight year (-0.2), as did the Wild (-5.9) and Ducks (-8.4). The Sharks (-7.8) and Lightning (-8.5) were there for the third consecutive season, while the Devils (-6.1) returned after a three-season absence. Making the list for the first time were the Dallas Stars (-1.1) and Los Angeles Kings (-2).

The escalation in players salaries is cited as the prime reason why these teams are losing money, especially those in struggling markets which find it difficult to keep pace with the ever-rising cap floor.

Other factors, however, also contributed to these teams’ appearances on the negative side of the ledger.

In Part Two, a look at the perennial money-losing teams.