NHL scores a record-breaking year

The only thing more impressive than the players' soon-to-be-grown playoff beards is the total at the bottom of the NHL balance sheet this year. 

Driving the news: The NHL playoffs are kicking off this weekend, but the league is already set to walk away as the real winner — though it won’t be hoisting a silver cup — after raking in a record US$6.2 billion this season thanks to a number of lucrative sponsorship deals.   

  • A record 22.5 million fans piled into arenas for games this year (on par with NBA attendance), while new media deals and sponsorships further boosted revenue.

  • This season also saw the highest cable viewership in 30 years, a feat the league credits to a new ESPN TV deal broadening the sport’s audience across the U.S.

Why it matters: The NHL has long been the underperforming younger sibling of the four major sports leagues, but thanks to some savvy dealmaking and marketing (and top-tier talent on the ice), the league is reaping the rewards of appealing to a wider demographic.

  • The league’s seen an influx in recent years of female fans, with NHL research showing that 37% of hockey fans in 2022 were female, up 26% from 2016.

  • Hockey’s demographic is also skewing younger, with TV viewership among fans aged 18 to 34 up 49% compared to last season. 

Bottom line: The NHL is still a ways away from catching up to the other leagues (all of which bring in more than $10 billion in revenue every year), but with more fans joining one of the most, if not the most, affluent fanbases in sports, the league’s future looks bright.—LA