NEW YORK -- The Toronto Maple Leafs are the first NHL team worth US$1 billion, according to Forbes magazine.
The Leafs, who have not won a Stanley Cup since 1967, are worth $250 million more than the next most valuable franchise, the New York Rangers.
"I'm intrigued by the evaluation and the recent MLSE acquisition clearly demonstrates the growing importance of all of our franchises to our fans," MLSE COO and President Tom Anselmi told TSN. "But I have no idea of how they came up with that number."
The Montreal Canadiens are worth $575 million.
The Chicago Blackhawks ($350 million), Boston Bruins ($348 million) and Detroit Red Wings ($346 million) round up the top six, meaning the league's six original franchises are also its most valuable.
The Vancouver Canucks are the next Canadian team on the list, in seventh at $342 million. The Calgary Flames are in 12th at $245 million, the Edmonton Oilers are ranked 14th at $225 million, the Ottawa Senators 16th at $220 million and the Winnipeg Jets 20th at $200 million.
The Jets saw their value jump after their first full season in Winnipeg. Forbes valued the franchise at $164 million last year and at $135 million in 2010, before the team moved north.
Least valuable of the 30 teams are the St. Louis Blues at $130 million and the Phoenix Coyotes at $134 million.
The Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings are worth $276 million, 10th overall.
Forbes says the NHL's total revenues were $3.4 billion for the 2011-12 season. Fuelled by that nine per cent increase, the average NHL team is worth $282 million, 18 per cent more than a year ago.
With the players locked out by owners, the NHL already has cancelled 422 regular-season games. Forbes reports that 13 teams lost money last season.
The Leafs, Rangers (last Stanley Cup in 1994) and Canadiens (last title in 1993) account for 83 per cent of the league's income, with Toronto the most profitable franchise at $81.9 million, followed by the Rangers at $74 million and Montreal at $51.6 million.