Originally Posted by NSMaster56
Right, but 'popularity' does not equate or translate to 'revenue' or 'operating income'.
Behold the 2013 breakdown
Compare it with the NBA
The bottom half of the NHL is scraping by (relatively speaking). Comparatively, the NBA's worst franchises are still worth more than 1/2 of the NHL's (and only a few are even losing money). You don't have to imagine very hard how a comparison to the NFL
skates by thanks to 'revenue sharing' and sweetheart TV deals).
The NHL has the weakest TV deal(s) and least amount of popularity in the states. In terms of 'sustainable business models', theirs is almost certainly the weakest. Their fundamentals are fairly sound, they just can't operate on the same level as the more popular sports and the stats support it.
The bottom half of the NHL is in southern states, for the most part. For example, the Lightning and Panthers aren't popular in Florida, yet Florida has two hockey teams. The Thrashers, which just moved back to Winnipeg, were the epitome on an unstable team without a market. The NHL has tried - and failed - to market to the southern United States. I don't know if the NHL will ever be popular in the south. It's just a cultural thing.
The north east and Canada is what keeps the NHL alive. There's no risk of "imploding" because hockey is immensely popular in the north eastern US and all of Canada. Up here, the NHL and NFL are so far ahead every other sport in terms of popularity it's a little silly. The NBA and MLB are just a blur to most Canadians. Now, you could very easily argue this is due to a lack of parity (especially in the NBA) but the stats speak for themselves. The NHL may have weak TV deals, but when you're marketing to states north of Kentucky, you're missing roughly 50% of the US.