Most watched NHL game in 36 years

  • Monday, June 15, 2009 3:14 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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Friday night's Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final on NBC was the most-watched NHL game in 36 years with an average of 8 million viewers.

The network's press release said the previous mark was a 1973 Stanley Cup Final Game 6 between Montreal and Chicago on NBC which drew 9.4 million.

The game earned a 4.3 rating, the best for a series-ending Final game since Anaheim-New Jersey's 4.6 rating in 2003.

NBC Sports' broadcast finished No. 1 for the night in every category including viewership and household ratings.

The closing minutes of the game, which saw Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury make a spectacular last-second save to preserve the 2-1 win (pictured above), drew about 10 million viewers.

These figures are likely higher because Nielsen only reports home television sets tuned into the program and since the game was on a Friday night there were many sports bars, airport lounges and hotel rooms tuned into the game.

Also, when CBC's Canadian coverage is factored in, plus international broadcasts in hot spots such as Russia and Sweden, the total audience grows even bigger.

In related news, Puck the Media blogger Steve Lepore reports that the NHL is on the verge of announcing a broadcast deal with NBC for the next two seasons. The revenue-sharing deal is great news for those hockey fans wanting more exposure for the league, as Game 7 on NBC clearly demonstrates the potential of the games being aired on network TV as opposed to specialty channels such as Versus.

The deal should hopefully include all seven Stanley Cup Finals games on NBC. Also, when the contract with Versus expires in 2011 the NHL should not renew but instead air regular season and playoff games on one of NBC Universal's basic cable channels, the most obvious fit being USA Network.

Pens stun Wings, win Cup in Detroit

  • Friday, June 12, 2009 11:54 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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Maxime Talbot scored both Pittsburgh Penguins' goals and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 23 shots including two critical saves as time wound down in the third period to secure a 2-1 victory over the Red Wings and spoil a chance for Detroit to win their second straight Stanley Cup, fifth in 12 seasons and 12th overall.

The Penguins became only the third team in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup in Game 7 on the road and the first team since 1971.

And Pittsburgh did it without Sidney Crosby, who was injured by a hard check in the second period and missed most of the third period. Evgeni Malkin, who led the playoffs with 36 points, won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason MVP.

After the win, 43-year-old Penguins owner Mario Lemieux celebrated on the ice with 21-year-old Crosby, the youngest captain to win a Stanley Cup.

The Penguins overcame a mid-season coaching change (rookie Dan Bylsma replaced Michel Therrien) and 2-0 series deficits to both the Washington Capitals and Detroit Red Wings on their way to the team's third title.

In other hockey news, the Hershey Bears, the Washington Capitals' top affiliate, won their 10th American Hockey League title with a 4-1 win over the Manitoba Moose, the Vancouver Canucks' top farm club, on Friday night. The Bears won the Calder Cup Finals series 4-2. Rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth made 24 saves and was selected playoffs MVP.

Will Game 7 score TV ratings record?

  • Friday, June 12, 2009 12:08 AM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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The NHL just might redeem itself this Friday night despite the league's best efforts to keep viewers in the penalty box by scheduling Game 6 the same night as the NBA Finals on ABC and showing Games 3 and 4 on Versus instead of NBC.

There are several reasons to believe Friday's Game 7 matchup between the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins could at the very least set a record for the most-watched Game 7 in NHL history. It will almost certainly draw a large amount of viewers. The question is, how many?

Before listing why this game might go down in ratings history, it helps to put the telecast in perspective. Game 4 of the Cup Finals averaged 3.45 million viewers on Versus in comparison to the NBA Finals Game 1 on ABC which drew 13.4 million. Game 6 of hockey's Stanley Cup Finals on NBC nabbed 5.81 million viewers while 14.2 million viewers tuned into Lakers-Magic Game 3.

So, obviously the NHL won't be competing with the NBA anytime soon in terms of ratings. But, there are some encouraging signs that point to a potential ratings bonanza for Game 7.

-- Despite all my complaints about the inaccessibility of Versus as a niche network not on basic cable, the sports channel did have a reason to boast as Game 4 was the most-watched telecast in the network's history and overall viewership was up 42 percent from Games 1 and 2 of last year's Final. Also, Game 4 earned the highest cable ratings for an NHL playoff series since 2002.

-- Game 6 on NBC earned the best numbers for the 2009 series despite competing with the NBA Finals on ABC, which bodes well for Friday night's coverage. Game 7 will be televised on NBC to a national audience and will have the night to itself as the NBA Finals series doesn't resume until Sunday. The game also falls on a Friday night when many people are welcoming the weekend at bars, many of which will be reluctantly forced to turn the game on.

-- Fridays are a weak ratings night for general programming which is why networks don't usually schedule the big shows that night. At the 8 p.m. puck drop (5 p.m. West Coast time) the hockey game will be going up against "Reba" on ABC, "Don't Forget the Lyrics!" on Fox, "Surviving Suburbia" on ABC and a repeat of "Ghost Whisperer" on CBS.

-- For the first time since 2003 there will be two American teams battling for the championship in Game 7. The 2003 game featured the New Jersey Devils shutting out the Anaheim Mighty Ducks 3-0. Since then there have been two more seventh games, both with at least one Canadian team, which means an entire city not on the ratings map -- Tampa Bay-Calgary in 2004 and Carolina-Edmonton in 2006.

-- Both the Penguins and Red Wings are marquee franchises with big-name stars. The Red Wings are one of the most recognizable franchises in professional sports and Forbes magazine recently rated the Penguins the fasted-growing team brand in hockey and third in the four major sports. With names such as Crosby, Malkin, Zetterberg and Osgood on the ice at Joe Louis Arena Friday there will be no shortage of star power and intrigue to draw viewers in.

-- There is high drama in this series which should hopefully make for some heart-pounding moments in Game 7, especially if it is close or goes into overtime. The Wings beat the Pens in six games last year so Pittsburgh has a chance to redeem themselves on enemy ice and prevent Detroit from winning its second straight Cup in front of the home crowd. Who will be the hero? Crosby? Malkin? Zetterberg? Datsyuk? A lesser-known player? Will Fleury and Osgood stand tall in front of the net or buckle under the pressure?

-- Lastly, the young Pittsburgh team has an opportunity to win a rare Game 7 Cup Final on the road. History is not on their side: only two road teams have won the Cup in a Stanley Cup Final Game 7. Montreal won 3-2 in Chicago in 1971. The other time? Way back in 1941 when Toronto beat the Red Wings 2-1 in Detroit.

Penguins slide into Stanley Cup Finals

  • Tuesday, May 26, 2009 6:32 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Carolina Hurricanes tonight by a final score of 4-1 to sweep the series and earn a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Pens will take on the winner of the Detroit Red Wings-Chicago Blackhawks series, which could be decided as early as tomorrow night with the Wings up three games to one. If the Wings win it will set up a rematch of last year's Stanley Cup Finals, which Detroit won in six games.

Pittsburgh won despite being outshot 40-29 at RBC Center by a 'Canes team fighting for its playoff life. Behind solid goaltending by Marc-Andre Fleury the Pens got scoring contributions from Bill Geurin, Maxime Talbot, Ruslan Fedotenko and Craig Adams. Sidney Crosby had two assists and Evgeni Malkin was held without a point. Eric Staal scored Carolina's lone goal.

The first game of the Stanley Cup Finals takes place Saturday, May 30 at 8 pm EST/5 pm PST on NBC.