The National Hockey League said on Tuesday that it was heading toward record revenue of almost $2.9 billion for the season due to large gains in sponsorship revenue and advertising on the North American sports league's TV network and website.
The NHL, at its halfway point in the season, expects total revenue to grow for the fifth straight year, rising 4 percent to 5 percent.
The vital signs are good, and we anticipate continued growth and momentum, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.
Not everything is going well, however, as Forbes last month estimated 16 of the league's 30 teams had lost money during the 2009-2010 season. Several teams are for sale, according to sports bankers, and the NHL hopes to soon close a deal to sell the Phoenix Coyotes team it bought out of bankruptcy in 2009.
Nevertheless, NHL officials are salivating at the prospect of a new U.S. TV deal after this season, with rights fees that could increase 50 percent or more.
The NHL said its sponsorship and marketing revenue had jumped 32 percent this year, while advertising on its NHL.com website and the NHL Network had surged 55 percent.
On NHL.com, unique visitors have increased 25 percent, and video starts have more than doubled, up 128 percent, the league said. Gross sales at Shop.NHL.com are up 12 percent, including its second-highest grossing day ever, the day after Thanksgiving, with a 153 percent increase over 2009.
The NHL said its teams were playing to more than 92 percent capacity, above last year's total, which was the third-best ever.