Even after a remarkable season, one in which they came away with a point in 24 straight games and made their second trip to the Stanley Cup Final in the past four seasons, the Chicago Blackhawks are still struggling in one regard.
Crain's estimates that the team is annually $10 million to $20 million in the red.
This year the Blackhawks spent $68 million on player salaries and another $20 million on coaches, staff and payments to the league's 10 lowest revenue-generating franchises. Chicago earned $20 million to $25 million from television rights and sponsorships and less than $50 million from tickets. And even though the price of admission has gone up steeply over the past few years, when one takes into account demand, market and the team's success, Blackhawks tickets are actually a good deal.
“The team makes substantially less than market leaders,” Don Erickson, president of the sports valuation and consulting firm Erickson Partners LLC, told Crain's. "Chicago is being treated very fairly.”
The franchise got off to a rough start this year, paying dozens of non-player employees during the NHL's lockout. The team has taken in about $15 million during Chicago's playoff run, but that's not enough to cover its losses. Instead, ownership makes up for the deficit through money earned from the Wirtz Corp. umbrella. That includes the Wirtz Beverage Co., which Crain's reports had nearly $2 billion in sales last year.
Like ownership did after the 2010 season, Chicago will raise ticket prices on fans for the 2013-14 campaign. If all goes well, Wirtz expects the franchise to be profitable by the 2015-16 season. Until then, seasons like this one certainly don't hurt.