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Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo stops Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Ilya Mikheyev as Columbus Blue Jackets defenceman Ryan Murray looks on during first period NHL Eastern Conference Stanley Cup playoff action in Toronto, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020.Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

The average value of NHL franchises declined for the first time since 2001 as the COVID-19 pandemic robbed teams of critical revenue, according to the annual list published by business magazine Forbes on Wednesday.

With only 85 per cent of regular season games held with fans and the entire postseason played at neutral sites and behind closed doors, the resulting lack of revenue from things like ticket sales and concessions took a toll.

Forbes also attributed the drop to a delayed start to the 2020-21 campaign, which still does not have an official start date but is reportedly being targeted for mid-January.

As a result, Forbes said the average value of the NHL’s 31 franchises fell 2 per cent during the past year to US$653-million, while league revenue during the 2019-20 season totalled US$4.4-billion, 14 per cent less than the previous year.

The New York Rangers were the most valuable NHL franchise for a sixth consecutive year at US$1.65-billion, unchanged from a year ago due in part due to healthy local cable television deals.

The Toronto Maple Leafs (US$1.5-billion), Montreal Canadiens (US$1.34-billion), Chicago Blackhawks (US$1.1-billion) and Boston Bruins (US$1-billion) rounded out the top five.

The Vancouver Canucks were No. 10, worth US$725-million; the Edmonton Oilers, No. 14, US$550-million; Calgary Flames, No. 20, US$480-million; Ottawa Senators, No. 26, US$430-million, Winnipeg Jets, No. 27, US$405-million.

The Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning were 21st on the list with a value of US$460 million, unchanged from a year ago after being unable to reap the windfall that typically comes with a deep playoff run.

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