NHL - Maple Leafs extend reign as NHL's most valuable team

The Toronto Maple Leafs are the first ice hockey team to be worth $1 billion, more than triple the average value of NHL franchises, according to an annual survey released by Forbes.

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Ice Hockey - Maple Leafs humble Canadiens
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2011-12 NHL Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel (L) celebrates his goal with Dion Phaneuf (C) and David Steckel

The Maple Leafs, who were acquired by Rogers Communications and telecom provider BCE a year ago, topped the list for the seventh consecutive year despite their failure to make the NHL playoffs since 2004.

The NHL's 30 teams are worth an average $282 million, a 17.5 per cent rise over last year, due largely to what Forbes said was the league's ability to raise ticket prices, increase attendance and renew or secure lucrative sponsorships.

But the spread between rich and poor teams proved dramatic as the NHL's top five teams are worth an average $605 million versus the $145 million average value of the bottom five teams.

The New York Rangers ($750 million) and Montreal Canadiens ($575 million) were the second and third top valued teams on the list and together with the Maple Leafs accounted for 83 per cent of the NHL's income.

The Chicago Blackhawks ($350 million) and Boston Bruins ($348 million), Stanley Cup champions in 2010 and 2011 respectively, rounded out the top five while the reigning Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings were ranked 10th with a value of $276 million.

The Forbes report was released with the NHL in the midst of a bitter labour dispute with players that began mid September.

The dispute has already wiped out a third of the regular season with the two sides still at odds over how to split up revenues.

Forbes top NHL 10 teams:

1. Toronto Maple Leafs ($1 billion)

2. New York Rangers ($750 million)

3. Montreal Canadiens ($575 million)

4. Chicago Blackhawks ($350 million)

5. Boston Bruins ($348 million)

6. Detroit Red Wings ($346 million)

7. Vancouver Canucks ($342 million)

8. Philadelphia Flyers ($336 million)

9. Pittsburgh Penguins ($288 million)

10. Los Angeles Kings ($276 million)

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