The Ottawa Senators play in one of the NHL’s smallest media markets, ranked 25th in average attendance this season, haven’t reached the playoffs since 2017, and have regularly posted operating losses.
Before Tuesday, the idea that the club would sell for a record price seems admittedly farfetched.
But the robust health of the league, the promise of a new downtown arena, and competitive bidding led to a sale worth nearly $1 billion to Montreal Canadiens co-owner Michael Andlauer, a new NHL highwater mark. The deal tops the $900 million Fenway Sports Group paid for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2021.
Arriving after a protracted, seven-month sales process, the deal further underlines a period of historic strength for the NHL.
Overall hockey-related revenue is projected to approach $6 billion in 2022-23, burnished in part by long-term labor peace with the NHL Players Association and lucrative media rights contracts with Disney and WBD collectively worth nearly $4.4 billion.
The Senators aim to build a new arena in Ottawa’s LeBreton Flats that would supplant the 27-year-old Canadian Tire Centre — located about 16 miles from downtown Ottawa — and transform the team’s revenue-generating power.
In December, Forbes estimated the Senators’ value at $800 million — good for only 24th in the league. But Andlauer prevailed over several other bidders in a vigorous competition, including Toronto businessman Steve Apostolopoulos, who exited the bidding several days ago.