Bulls of the Year
It was a bullish year for Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, both on the ice (winning their first Stanley Cup) and off the ice (redefining the concept of post-game partying).
Owner Ted Leonsis celebrated a new US$35-million per annum regional sports television deal that was double the value of its predecessor and a franchise record Forbes valuation of US$725M, up a league-high 16 per cent over the previous year.
Meanwhile, the Vegas Golden Knights didn’t win the Stanley Cup, but they nonetheless set new standards for expansion team success. In the process they increased their own Forbes franchise valuation by 15 per cent to US$575M.
The other Bulls of the Year in hockey included the Toronto Maple Leafs. They won the John Tavares free agency sweepstakes on July 1, the same day their parent company Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment officially transformed the Air Canada Centre into Scotiabank Arena in the largest naming rights deal in the world at $40M annually over 20 years.
The Philadelphia Eagles followed up their first Super Bowl in franchise history last February with a razor-thin return to the NFL post-season. The New Orleans Saints go into 2019 as NFC favourites with home-field advantage at the Mercedes Benz Superdome but how about the prospects for an all-Los Angeles Super Bowl?
In Major League Baseball, the Boston Red Sox claimed their fourth World Series title in 14 years, while the Golden State Warriors captured their third NBA tital in four years and Atlanta United FC showed no sophomore jinx, winning the MLS Cup in front of 73,000 fans at 18-month-old Mercedes Benz Stadium.
Also making big gains in the stock market of sport were eSports, with Toronto-based Overactive Media taking the lead with seven international teams after the November acquisition of Splyce. There are now nine eSports franchises headquartered in Canada, including Raptors Uprising in the NBA 2K and Toronto Defiant and Vancouver Titans in Overwatch.
Bears of the Year
According to Forbes magazine, 29 of 31 teams in the NHL saw their value increase an average of seven per cent year-over-year.
Two didn’t. They’re the two sickest puppies in the NHL: Florida Panthers and Arizona Coyotes. They both dipped three per cent in enterprise value and even further in attendance, making them — no matter what the NHL says — prime candidates for relocation.
Yet the most bearish team in the NHL is the Ottawa Senators. Thanks to the soap opera business style of owner Eugene Melnyk, the Sens have become the butt end of jokes on and off the ice. What a fall from grace: An overtime goal away from the Stanley Cup Final in 2017 to bottom of the barrel status in 2018.
The biggest losers in the NFL? Take your pick. The Washington Redskins showed the biggest drop in NFL attendance in 2018 (a significant 19 per cent), while the uninspired New York Giants and Jets made it 0-for-2 in Big Apple teams making the playoffs.
And then there’s the Oakland Raiders, soon to be the Las Vegas Raiders, with a possible pit stop in London, England, for the 2019 season along the way.
Others having bad years: Urban Meyer for not getting it — and anyone linked to so-called burner accounts on Twitter!
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