ESPN for over a decade has asked sports fans to rate their favorite professional teams by considering key categories such as ticket prices, coaching, ownership, players, games won per season, and championships to determine which teams rank as the ultimate sport franchises.
Using the talents of Paul Swangard and the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon, the winner for 2016 is the Tampa Bay Lightning of the NHL.
It’s no coincidence, according to ESPN, that the Lightning also ranked first in having owners and players who show appreciation to fans. Moreover, the Lightning ranked in the top 10 in six of the eight categories surveyed and in the top 25 in all of them.
Franchise Owner Jeffrey Vinik grew up in New Jersey and developed his love for hockey watching his favorite team since the age of five, when he would hide a small black-and-white TV in his bed and view all the Rangers night games. “I used to watch the Rangers on Channel 9,” he said. “And after we moved to New York City, I would go to games all the time.”
Reportedly, Vinik, who is worth over $500 million, bought the Lightning for $170 million, some $30 million less than what the franchise sold for two years earlier. Vinik claims the team currently breaks even and there is no telling what the value of the franchise is now. “The metrics you can use to evaluate how much a team is worth — its sport, media revenues, cash flow — they’re kind of irrelevant. I’m not selling.
“I don’t play golf,” Vinik told ESPN. “This is what I do for fun. And I want to be the owner of a great franchise.”
Rounding out the NHL’s top rankings are Nashville Predators (6 overall), Florida Panthers (7 overall), and the Dallas Stars (8 overall).
The worst franchise ranking in the NHL goes to the Toronto Maple Leafs (118 overall). This is somewhat of a moral victory because it is the first time in four years that the Leafs did not come in dead last in the overall Ultimate Standings. That dubious distinction goes to the San Francisco 49ers.
According to ESPN, “Fans see San Francisco’s owners as the NFL’s most dishonest and its players as the least available in sports, while the front office has raised prices by more than 60 percent over the past five years (the NFL average is just 12 percent).” To top it off, the 49ers won just five games in 2015. The rankings come before the Colin Kaepernick Black Lives Matter boycott of the national anthem, which can only exacerbate their already dismal Ultimate Standing ranking.
Here is a list of the top teams and the worst team in the three other major sports categories:
1. Kansas City Royals (9 overall)
2. Texas Rangers (10 overall)
3. Baltimore Orioles (15 overall)
30. Oakland Athletics (115 overall)
1. Carolina Panthers (3 overall)
2. Green Bay Packers (4 overall)
3. Arizona Cardinals (5 overall)
32. San Francisco 49ers (122 overall)
1. San Antonio Spurs (2 overall)
2. Cleveland Cavaliers (13 overall)
3. Memphis Grizzlies (14 overall)
30. Phoenix Suns (120 overall)