The 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic not only generated the largest attendance and broadcast viewership for a regular-season game in league history, it also made a profit of more than $20 million.

According to an NHL source, the Jan. 1 game at Michigan Stadium posted more than $30 million in revenue against costs of $10 million. Approximately two-thirds of the revenue was derived from ticket sales, with 105,491 fans paying an average ticket price of $186 for an estimated take of $19.6 million. An additional $10 million in revenue came from retail and advertising sales.

A specific breakdown of those categories was unavailable.

As a point of comparison for those numbers: The previous Winter Classic, the 2012 edition at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, is believed to have made $15 million in revenue against costs of $10 million. Additionally, considering the $30 million in revenue from this year’s Winter Classic: That compares to a typical regular-season game for the NHL’s most successful teams — including Toronto, Chicago, Montreal and the New York Rangers — bringing in between $2 million and $3 million.

The Winter Classic is a league-level event, despite this year’s showcase officially being a Detroit Red Wings home game. While the league makes Detroit whole on its financials, beyond that, revenue from the game (like any regular-season game) goes into the NHL’s pool of hockey-related revenue. That amount in turn is used to set the salary cap — money to the players — but the increased riches from the Winter Classic also speak directly to doing what the league outlined last fall when it stated its desire to
increase overall revenue by $1 billion over a three-year span.

Merchandising was undoubtedly a boon this year. Brian Jennings, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for the NHL, said sales of event merchandise this year were up 60 percent over the previous Winter Classic high, which was set at the 2011 game between Pittsburgh and Washington at Heinz Field. The league set sales records for the Michigan game in team jerseys and knit hats.

It’s no wonder that NHL Chief Operating Officer John Collins previously referred to the retail sales potential around the Winter Classic as “almost like having a 31st franchise.”

There were long lines at all Michigan Stadium merchandise booths beginning more than two hours before the game. Sales were stimulated in part by the larger stadium than past Winter Classic sites as well as the popularity of the visiting Maple Leafs, the first Canadian team to play in a Winter Classic.