Vancouver Canucks = Ratings?

Well, this is slightly unexpected. Game one of the Stanley Cup Final between the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins received the highest US television rating for a hockey game in 12 years.

From Steve Lepore of Puck The Media:

The network’s broadcast of Game 1 between Boston and Vancouver drew 4.53 million viewers in primetime, up 5% from Game 1 in 2010, between Philadelphia and Chicago, which drew 4.34 mullion viewers on a Saturday night. It’s also up a tick from Game 1 in 2009, which drew 4.51 million viewers on a Saturday night. Prior to that, every Stanley Cup Final opener since 1999 had aired on cable’s ESPN or VERSUS. The game drew a 1.8 in the coveted Adults 18-49 demo, up 6% from last year’s Game 1. The game won the 10 p.m. ET hour in Adults 18-49.

It’s obvious that the Canucks were the reason for the huge ratings.

Okay… maybe Boston had something to do with it too. Lepore mentions that “Boston led all markets with an unsurprising monster of a 25.5/39 rating.”

This is certainly good news for the NHL.

With NBA and NFL lockouts possibly causing havoc with professional basketball and American football in the near future, this is the NHL’s chance to establish itself as a major player in sports television. The huge long-term deal with NBC and Versus was the first step.  We’re pretty sure the final step is profit.

Now they’ll just need to fill in the gaps.

There were some fears that having a Canadian team in the final would hurt ratings, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Obviously, having a large market like Boston in the mix helped. Boston is the seventh largest television market in the United States. We wonder what the ratings would have been like if Tampa Bay would have been in the game instead. However, Tampa-St. Petersburg is still the 13th-largest market, so it may not have mattered.

The NHL has been lucky with the finals in the last few years.

Last year we saw Philadelphia and Chicago, which are both huge markets, face off for the Cup. It’s interesting to note that both of those markets are larger than Boston and yet yesterday’s game received a higher rating. Obviously some of the ratings are coming from other areas. The NHL is certainly growing as a televised sport.

The 2008 and 2009 finals featured Detroit taking on Pittsburgh. Both of those teams traditionally draw large ratings as well. Would the NHL still be able to bring in viewers if the final was Carolina versus St. Louis? Or Winnipeg and Edmonton, which could be a possibility next year thanks to the Winnipeg team remaining in the East?

Hopefully the answer is yes. The upside to the NHL becoming a proven ratings draw is that eventually teams outside of the usual Boston/New York/Detroit/Philadelphia/Chicago/Pittsburgh/Washington markets will be shown nationally, which will introduce several other deserving stars to the American public.

CBC’s ratings have not been announced at this point, but we can assume they will be excellent.