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Canucks and Beyond

Stanley Cup Finals Game 1 scores big in US Ratings

Let’s go back a few days, to Sunday, when Bruce Dowbiggin wrote the following at the Globe & Mail:

The Stanley Cup final matchup last year was the best thing to happen to the NHL in the United States since Wayne Gretzky dried his tears on the pier at Santa Monica, Calif., in 1988. The meeting of the Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers, the third- and fourth-biggest media markets in the States, produced substantial ratings…[...].

The Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks pairing in 2011, by contrast, has been compared by some to the Fox TV glowing puck as a broadcasting non-starter. Ratings from the local Vancouver market don’t count in the U.S. Nielsen ratings. To Americans, Vancouver might as well be Vladivostok at this time of year. The Sedin twins, likely to win back-to-back Hart Trophies, rival the GOP presidential field on the invisibility factor. Boston is dropping as a major U.S. market.

But in reality, an entirely different picture emerges, as ratings from “Vladivostok” give NBC a whopping 14% increase over last year, and are, in fact, the highest game 1 ratings in 12 years.


I had kept Dowbiggin’s article handy on my desktop because it reminded me of a story theme that I always find annoying, where the implication also seems to be that somehow the league should be ‘gaming’ for perfect ratings matchups, and not be content with the outcomes they end up with, even if that includes Canadian teams.

I’m not naive—obviously the NHL benefits from the best ratings possible—but it seems unreasonably paranoid to me, that people always assume Canada isn’t important to how the NHL views their overall success.

Gary Bettman is such a huge target for conspiracy theorists—particularly in Canada—that sometimes I think people forget he’s not an idiot.  He knows that hockey in Canada is an intrinsic part of his league’s success, despite many more teams in the USA.  So even if the ratings HAD come out slightly lower, to the NHL, that’s the price they pay for a lot of benefits. Canada is not only their biggest training ground, they’re the source of most of the sport’s PR. 

So, sure, maybe Bettman thinks Canada is an evil nightmare in his daily job… but he also knows it’s a necessary evil.

Regardless, it’s great to see that American viewers showed up in the Boston market and beyond, in a big way, to watch game 1. It gives me more faith in the intelligence of hockey fans than I have in the analytical talents of some media pundits.

For an extra smile, Puck the Media also kindly points out this fun fact:

Game 1 drew a 25.5 in Boston. Game 1 of last year’s Lakers/Celtics NBA Finals drew a 19.1.

You rock, Boston. 


Filed in: business of hockey, playoff hockey, | Canucks and Beyond | Permalink
  Tags: boston, gary+bettman, nbc, ratings


phillyd's avatar

I have a few friends in Seattle that are now “bandwagon” Canucks fans. Any info on the ratings from the Seattle metro from last night?

Posted by phillyd from Southern New Jersey on 06/02/11 at 03:22 PM ET


That writer is an idiot, the Bruins have one of the higher local ratings of U.S. teams.  The Boston rating for last night’s game 1 was higher than game 1 of the NBA Finals last year when the Celtics were involved.

Posted by Devils In The Details on 06/02/11 at 03:23 PM ET


Doh, didn’t see the end where you already posted what I did.  Guess I should actually learn to read.

Posted by Devils In The Details on 06/02/11 at 03:24 PM ET

Alanah McGinley's avatar

PhillyD - Those market breakdowns are indeed available. If I spot it later, I’ll post those numbers here in the comments.

Devils in the Details— Ha!  No worries. My mind starts to wonder when I get to the last paragraph of reading my posts, too. smile

Posted by Alanah McGinley from British Columbia on 06/02/11 at 03:47 PM ET


How many game 1’s have been on network and how many on cable over the past 12 years?

I recall some years where the networks did not pick up coverage until game 3 of the SCF.

Posted by Cubanpuckstopper on 06/02/11 at 04:24 PM ET

Alanah McGinley's avatar

“I recall some years where the networks did not pick up coverage until game 3 of the SCF.”

Of the finals?! Seriously?  Holy cripes.

Anyway, I don’t know the answer to your question, but it’s an interesting one.

Posted by Alanah McGinley from British Columbia on 06/02/11 at 04:37 PM ET


Look what I found, more imprtantly where I found it!


But any growth in ratings is a good thing, especially considering we are in June.

Posted by Cubanpuckstopper on 06/02/11 at 04:44 PM ET

blammo's avatar

The US and Canada have a great relationship and our brotherly rivalry is fun, healthy, and mostly prosperous for both sides.

These numbers might reflect that fact; similar to a Canada/US Olympic final, its a match-up that attracts attention from both sides of the 49th parallel.

Also, I’m sure Boston is a huge draw across Canada. Vancouver native Michael J Fox was interviewed last night on CBC, and he, like me grew up idolizing Bobby and cheers for the Bruins as well as the Canucks. Unlike me, he is best buds with Cam Neely.

And its a good point about Bettman, you might not like him (I don’t), but he is probably smarter (and richer) than you. Keep that in mind whenever you call him an idiot.

Posted by blammo from Vancouver, BC on 06/02/11 at 05:21 PM ET


Gary Bettman ... sometimes I think people forget he’s not an idiot.

Naw, he just plays one on TV. cheese

Posted by BobTheZee on 06/02/11 at 07:10 PM ET

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About Canucks and Beyond

Alanah McGinley has been blogging hockey since 2003 (with a notable gap in time through 2010, kicking it with new baby Lucy while living knee-deep in chaos while reading "parenting for complete idiots" during every spare minute) sharing opinions, rants and not-so-deep thoughts with anyone who will listen.

In addition to writing Canucks & Beyond and helping manage Kukla's Korner, Alanah was one of the founders and co-hosts of The Crazy Canucks Podcast. She has contributed pieces to FoxSports.com and the New York Times Slapshot blog, as well as other stray destinations in cyberspace.

So that's me. Who the hell are you? smile

Email: am@kuklaskorner.com

Alanah's Twitter: [@alanah1]