NHL hockey teams need to keep an eye on Canada's changing demographics, as new immigrants and an aging population boost the popularity of games such as soccer and baseball, the Conference Board of Canada said in a report.
It is the latest in a Conference Board series called Playing in the Big League, which looks at what it takes for a professional sports team to make money.
All professional sports leagues need to be aware of how demographics and consumer tastes are evolving in their markets, the report said. For example, NHL teams may need to tweak their marketing to retain older fans, who may be turned off by the speed and violence of the game, it said.
Likewise, they need to recognize the increasingly large immigrant population, especially in large cities such as Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. About 40% of Toronto residents were born outside of the country.
"For many, soccer is their team sport," said the report. "Ignoring the demographic reality today could hurt the financial viability of professional sports teams in the future."
Strong management and quality facilities are also key factors that can contribute to a team's financial success.
The report points to the Ottawa Rough Riders as an example of how poor management helped bring down a successful sports franchise. The team's winning streak began to fade in the late 1970s, and they had their last winning season in 1979.
"While many of the elements for on- and off-field success remained in place into the 1980s, looking back, it is clear to see that the changes in ownership and management during this period were turning points for the franchise," the report said.
The club eventually folded in 1996.
Location is also a major key to success, the report said. The lack of a baseball-specific stadium wasn't the only factor in the demise of the Montreal Expos, but it did play a part, the report said.
The team was playing in Montreal's Olympic Stadium, which was not designed for the sport. The crowd was far from the field and the sightlines were poor.
However, when it comes to financial performance, a winning team may be the best boost for the bottom line.
"People love a winner, and putting together a competitive team will sustain and grow fan interest," the report said, adding even non-fans will enjoy the atmosphere a winning team generates within a community.