National Hockey League Hockey-related revenue is back to pre-pandemic levels and expected to top $5.2 billion, commissioner Gary Bettman said during his press conference ahead of the Stanley Cup final at Denver’s Ball Arena on Wednesday.
“Though I got an email about it an hour ago from our CFO who said he thought it might be conservative,” Bettman said before the Colorado Avalanche defeated the double-defended Tampa Bay Lightning. 4–3 in overtime. 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
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NHL revenue for the 2018–19 season was $5.09 billion, the last before the spread of the coronavirus brought all sports to a halt on March 12, 2020, and like this season, the league played a full schedule of 82 games.
Bettman cited new media contracts and commitments from current and new sponsors to rebuild the NHL after two seasons in which they lost millions of dollars.
“What we have done is that we have acted according to the fundamentals of our business during the most difficult times,” Bettman said. “All of our partners, whether corporate or media, were extremely pleased with the result. And all of this was made possible by working with players and the NHL Players Association.”
NHL signed last year saw new seven-season contracts: Disney will pay $400 million annually to the league in the US, and Turner Sports added $225 million per season. By comparison, at the end of last season, the NHL signed NBC to a 10-year, $2 billion contract, or $200 million a year.
Bettman said at the All-Star Game This past January, despite ongoing health and safety concerns in Canada and the postponement of 105 games, he still predicted hockey-related revenue would reach $5 billion.
The NHL withdrew from the Chinese Winter Olympics mainly due to the proliferation of the omicron variant and also because it needed a three-week break from the games for makeup.
“Without that roughly three-week period, I’m not sure how we could have ended the season on any rational or irrational basis,” Bettman said at the time.
Bettman is expected today, at a meeting of the Board of Governors in New York, his contract as commissioner will be renewed.
Hockey-related NHL revenue fell to $4.37 billion in the 2019-20 season, which ended the playoffs in empty stadiums in Toronto and Edmonton. Last season, attendance was limited across the league due to health and safety protocols, and the schedule was reduced to 56 games.
Bettman said Wednesday he’s happy to be back to normal, marked by a raucous sell-out in Denver in Game 1.
“We were able to stabilize the business and provide capacity,” he said. “That doesn’t mean there weren’t problems at times. This does not mean that at times we did not need to adapt. some of you [reporters] said we made it up as we went, and that’s the way it was. But we did what we had to do to get through it.”
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