Forbes Ranks Canucks as 7th-Most Valuable NHL Team: Why It’s Concerning

Since the team’s peak years from 2009-2012, the Vancouver Canucks organization has enjoyed their fair share of ups and downs. It’s no secret the team has been on a decline over the past few years especially, though. Some remain hopeful and optimistic about the present, while others would like to see a regime that solely focuses on the future. 

On Wednesday, Forbes released their annual NHL Valuations for 2016. At the top of the list were the cream of the crop Original Six, while the smaller hockey markets crowded the bottom. Being a Canadian market in a city that seemingly lives and breathes hockey, the Forbes listed the Vancouver Canucks as the 7th-most valuable NHL franchise. Sounds impressive right? It definitely is, but there are also some concerns that may arise within business operations.

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The value of the Vancouver Canucks franchise has seen a decline in light of the Canucks’ struggles over the past few seasons. After the John Tortorella season, everyone hoped that bringing in Willie Desjardins, who has just won the AHL’s Calder Cup, would provide that spark that could jumpstart the Canucks once again. His first season in 2014 was undoubtedly successful, mainly given the fact that he had coached the team to the playoffs, arguably exceeding expectations. It was at this time when the Canucks’ value was at its peak: $800 million. They had earned a revenue of $154 million, as well as operating income of $46.7 million. The Canucks were #5 on Forbes’ NHL evaluations list.

Last season during the 2015 campaign, it appeared as if the Canucks had come down to earth a little bit. It was the start of management committing and promoting the transition of younger players, with hopes that fans would see the light at the end of a not-so-optimistic tunnel. Connecting the dots based on Forbes’ evaluation, they were not successful. The team’s value had decreased to $745 million with a 1-year value change of -7%. Revenue and operating income had declined as well, dropping to $152 million and $35.5 million respectively. The Canucks were now to #6 on Forbes’ list.

That brings us to the current numbers… 

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Value  1-Year Change  Revenue   Operating Income     Debt  
  $700 million   -6%   $146 million   $29.6 million 11%

Work appears to be difficult for the Canucks’ business operations department. Rogers Arena has not been meeting full capacity, only to be accentuated by the empty maroon seats that stand out in bunches. New ticket-pricing options were introduced, yet it has not been enough to lure the public to games. Fans are simply not willing to invest in the current on-ice product, and the Canucks have evidently taken that hit. The -6% valuation change is tied for last in the NHL with Calgary, who are at #16. Again, the Canucks have dropped one spot to #7 on Forbes’ NHL evaluations list.

The numbers above would make the Canucks front office and ownership cringe. The past three years have seen a steady decline in the financial aspect of the team. The Canucks’ value has dropped 13% in the previous two seasons – that’s a pretty big chunk of money. 

These underlying numbers clearly raise red flags, indicating that the current plan is simply not working. Now, which plan am I talking about? Well, that’s up to you to decide. 

The front office has been responsible for managing the ‘behind the scenes’ activity, dealing with matters such as ticket pricing, hospitality, and overall fan experience. They’ve introduced a game-dependent ticket-pricing system to combat their once-static high prices; the reception was given a full makeover with CSE operating independently, and they’ve done an excellent job producing the much-needed ‘little things’ such as digital content and social media engagement.

On the opposite side, Jim Benning and Trevor Linden have instilled the plan to transition young players into the line-up, where they have the opportunity to learn from quality NHL veterans. When this regime came in, they were not afraid to make moves that the fans opposed. Letting go of some fan-favourites carved room for the young players, which was a step in the right direction in most fans’ eyes. Although management’s plan is smart in theory, some may say that it simply will not work. The thought of tearing down and rebuilding has become a popular idea amongst many Canucks fans, but management has been adamant is not going down that route. The on-ice product that they have put together is arguably not an exciting team to watch. The numbers are proof that the Canucks are simply not willing to pay to watch the Canucks play. Trust in management has arguably declined significantly, and it seems that one of the biggest dilemmas is the different paths that Canucks fans and management want to take.

Fans are not happy, which means they have no reason so continually invest in a team that appears to be on a downward trend. The overhaul of the Canucks’ front-office tactics has seen positive results, in my opinion. It’s management’s plan and execution that it’s triggering the decline in valuation. I could honestly go on about what I think about management and their intentions, but maybe I’ll leave that for another day.

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Nonetheless, it’s hard not to notice the annual decline in valuation that the Canucks have been hit with. It’s a huge concern, especially given the idea that the Canucks’ current state might just be the beginning of a long series of struggles. A $700 million valuation is an unfathomable amount of money, and the Aquilinis surely must be content since they purchased the team for $250 million. The Canucks’ value is up there with the Original Six teams, and it’s the third highest Canadian team after powerhouse Montreal and Toronto. Overall, their valuation is impressive and should be something we can hold our hats on. Nonetheless, the league-high 13% decline over the past two years is a problem. Something may have to be addressed to prevent any further downward trends.

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Sources: Forbes 2016, Forbes 2015, Forbes 2014



  • Bud Poile

    It is a certainty that billionaires attempt to buy low and sell high.

    Ownership gives them a toy to manage and allows them an opportunity to become even more extremely wealthy.

    Still,I am grateful for the manner in which the Aquilini’s have fully invested in this team and provided a stable base for the franchise.

    This franchise has been in serious financial troubles a few times so those that love Canucks hockey should be cognisant of the past.

  • Dirty30

    A lot of ordinary fans got priced out of the arena when the team was very successful and those seats were sold to businesses and corporations. They used those seats for entertaining clients or bonuses to employees.

    So one issue now is that it’s not fun to take a client to an empty arena to watch a boring team lose. And it’s not much of a bonus to an employee to get sent to game unless they are about to be fired.

    The other problem is that ordinary fans who got priced out of their seats don’t necessarily want to go watch a boring team lose and implicitly support an ownership that didn’t support those fans when the team was worth watching.

    • Bud Poile

      “The other problem is that ordinary fans who got priced out of their seats don’t necessarily want to go watch a boring team lose and implicitly support an ownership that didn’t support those fans when the team was worth watching.” Dirty30

      Supply and demand-same the world over.

      • Whackanuck

        Despite 10 years of tanking, intentional or just inept, Oiler fans still sold the building out every game. Not so the Canucks, or for that matter the Flames.

        Actually, the fans fear(and CA’s) may simply be that the Aquilinis will sell and the new owner won’t spend to the cap limit.

  • Killer Marmot

    These underlying numbers clearly raise red flags, indicating that the current plan is simply not working.

    The Canucks patently are rebuilding. And it’s been quite successful — they now have one of the youngest defenses in the league.

    The writers of CA, however, don’t think it’s been aggressive enough. They wanted a complete Leafs-like tear down.

    Had the Canucks done so, however, their “on-ice product” would likely be worse than it is now, and attendance numbers would be even lower.

    So which is it? Do you want aggressive rebuilding or do you want the best on-ice product possible today? Because you can’t have both.

    • Andy

      You’re also working on the assumption that that the best on-ice product is competitive hockey.

      Many teams peddle in either success, or the hope of success.

      Right now, the team is in its lowest lull, as the hopes of success are currently playing in the NCAA and OHL.

  • Fred-65

    Unless Vcr /Aquallini is willing to go all in on a rebuild then expect more of the same. How long did it take for TO to realize they needed to tank to have any success and the Oilers doing the same season after season. I hope Vcr can take the high ground and do their best during these hard times. No one likes a cheat

    • Bud Poile

      Sure,Fred.

      Put up a quarter billion of your personal extra cash and let’s see how you make out.

      “No one likes a cheat” and yet that is exactly what tanking is and does-robs fans of a competitive team for a decade, with hopes that your GM has the proper evaluation and developmental skills to save the franchise from folding.

      Way to take the high ground,Fred.

      • Dirk22

        Take it easy on Fred there Bud. You say tanking robs fans of a competitive team for a decade.

        Let’s define some terms here and answer some questions:

        a) what does tanking mean? Are the Canucks tanking right now or are they just a bad team? Does tanking have to be purposeful? What tanking teams took a decade to get competitive again? (I assume you may be referring to the Leafs and Oilers but were they really tanking for 10 years or were they just bad?)

        b) what does a competitive team mean? One that might make the playoffs or one that can reasonably compete for a cup? When do you reasonably expect the Canucks to be competitive again or are they right now?

        • Bud Poile

          a)The Canucks are three points out of a playoff wildcard slot without their top two D-men and arguably a top-three forward.

          Recent history:Oilers,Panthers,Islanders,Coyotes,Sabres,Penguins,Leafs-willfully tanking-and they just sucked.Minnesota,California,Atlanta,Winnipeg,Hartford,Quebec,Cleveland and Kansas City are historical reminders of fiscal reality.

          b)Competitive means you are able to consistently compete,which the Canucks seem capable of right now.

          Does any knowledgeable and realistic Canucks fan honestly think a consistently non-competitive team will be supported by fans and ownership in Vancouver?

          • Dirk22

            A) you didn’t answer the question. You just listed a bunch of franchises. Are you saying all those teams tanked or were they just bad teams? I don’t know if there’s a difference in your opinion? .

            B) consistently compete – again, what does this mean? You’re throwing out words like a hockey player being interviewed. Compete for what? Within the game? For playoffs? The Cup?

            The only reason the Canucks are 3 pts out is because their division is mediocre. They are also three pts out of last place in the league- yet this is them trying to be competitive? No realistic fan looks at this team and thinks playoffs. You’re not really buying that from management right?

            The team isn’t being supported – that’s the point of the article!! Rogers was half full for Anaheim despite 17,000 tickets sold or whatever number they said.

  • Steampuck

    Hypothesis: having grown up in Vancouver but no longer live there (deep sigh), I’d question the premise that Vancouver lives and breathes hockey. Certainly not like the Canada east of the Rockies. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, and I’m not knocking the fanbase, but Vancouver is, quite simply, a beautiful place to live. Between weather, physical environment, etc.: Vancouverites have a life. If the team is doing well, they have money to spend on it. If the team is less successful, life is to be had in other ways. And, so, the value of the team declines. I’d be interested to know whether the value of other franchises is as prone to such fluctuation. I now live on the edge of the Greater Toronto Area: it’s hard to escape hockey here. In Vancouver, it seems a less conspicuous feature of the urban landscape. Just a thought.

  • Marvin101

    the tv timeouts and coaches challenges make going to the games more trouble than it’s worth. and now i’m hating the cable companies so what’s a guy to do?

  • Janetz90

    Vancouver does not live and breath hockey like the rest of Canada, especially Alberta. We dont support sh*tty team. There are too many things to do than cheering for a sh*tty team. That’s the way it supposed to be. You don’t go eat at a crappy restaurant, do you?? Amen!

  • Nuckleston

    I think the lack of attendance at games is a symptom of a greater problem then just simply winning or losing.

    The last time I really went to games was when the West Coast Express was still on the ice. At that time,I could get lower bowl last minute playoff tickets for under 150.

    As the price went up,I was unable to convince myself that the higher price including parking and concession were worth the effort; especially when you take into account the lack of atmosphere.

    After Rogers did there best to make me hate watching hockey with all the changes they made (Healy last year for one),I find myself not even caring if the game is on; heck my wife asks me to change the channel more often than not because she can’t stand the play by play guy when it’s not John.

    In my opinion, the fact that hockey is only entertainment and not life is becoming lost on the NHL. I think the NHL is quickly reaching a point where they need to take a step back and reevaluate their product to make it more appealing. Sometimes making as much money as possible is not the surest sign of a healthy product.

  • wjohn33

    Look, almost all sports franchises go through cycle periods especially in the era of the salary cap. I think fans do understand this process. We are now cycling down, and as with business, it’s very difficult to predict when the cycle reaches its nadir. This season could be it. Or, we still may have to wait a few more seasons.

    With the exception of Toronto, Edmonton, or Montreal, and maybe the Rangers I can’t think of any other franchises that regularly fill the arena when the product is not really competitive or at least consistently entertaining. These are the league-wide exceptions. Even Winnipeg and Quebec City had poor attendance before they were moved.

    We’re actually a pretty large and normal fan base. Current or future ownership understands the principles of selling a product and business cycles. They will ride the ebb and profit from the flow, whenever it comes.

  • canook

    The value of every Canadian team depreciated by about the same amount as the Canucks did, per Forbes. Yes, that could coincide with all of their missing the playoffs and fit the narrative of their being in downturn eras (at least for 2015-2016). But these valuations are in USD, and the Canadian teams’ losses have more to do with the Canadian dollar than the hockey departments. No, the Canucks aren’t the sexy asset they were five years ago, but that’s not the whole story.

  • Whackanuck

    A. His first list has “willfully tanking” stated.

    B.The team is competitive in most games. I don’t find the hockey games “boring”. The team’s effort is consistent and persistent. The talent takes time to assemble.

    Why fans would buy tickets and not go is on the fans. could understand people not buying tickets at all.