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Hockey Fever: The most watched games of all time

Recently released TV ratings show that Canadians are starting to turn away from the National Hockey League. Maybe this trend could be put down to the relative lack of success enjoyed by teams in the country in a division that has started to become dominated across the border.

It’s a worrying set of numbers for the TV companies and it’s down to them to address those figures and get them moving upwards. Whatever the source of this dip may be, it’s worth remembering how gripping this sport can be as we look at the five most watched hockey games of all time.

2013 Stanley Cup Final: Blackhawks v Bruins



Naturally the main focus for TV viewers over the years has been the Stanley Cup Final. It’s the pinnacle of the season and the trophy that all teams are aiming for and even if your side isn’t involved, it would just be wrong not to see the season out.

The 2013 Final between Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks is the most watched Stanley Cup series of all time with an average of 5.8 million viewers tuning in across the six games. This number peaked in game six with 8.2 million avid watchers as the Blackhawks ran out winners.

2011 Stanley Cup Final: Bruins v Canucks



The 2011 final was the last to feature a Canadian side so perhaps that’s one of the reasons why residents north of the border are starting to turn off from the NHL. It was also the last series to  go to a deciding game and that decider produced the biggest viewing figures in the history of the division.

Overall, the average numbers of 4.6 million have been dwarfed since but with the series poised at 3-3, 8.3 million tuned in for the final game. Unfortunately for the Vancouver Canucks, it proved to be a sucker punch as the Bruins claimed the title.

2010 Stanley Cup Final: Blackhawks v Flyers

The 2013 Final may have finished with the highest average of any Stanley series involving the Blackhawks but in terms of one single match, we have to go back three years for some higher numbers. The series was a slow burner, but as the games progressed, the audience began to sit up and take notice.

Chicago Blackhawks went into the final game with a 3-2 advantage over the Philadelphia Flyers and as they closed out to take the title with a 4-2 scoreline, 8.3 million viewers tuned in to boost what had, up to that point, been a relatively modest average of  5.2 million.

2010 Olympic Ice Hockey Final: Canada v USA


As a nation, Canada enjoyed its greatest success at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Held on home ice in Vancouver, the Canadians progressed through to the final where they faced their great rivals and neighbours the USA in a game that didn’t disappoint.

A 3-2 victory capped a classic game in a match where it’s estimated that around half the country tuned in to watch. With a much wider, global audience tuning in to hockey at the Olympics, the viewing figures dwarfed anything provided by the Stanley Cup with an estimated total of 26.5 watchers across the world.

1980 Olympic Ice Hockey Final: USA v Finland

The biggest accolade of all here goes to the 1980 final and a game where interest had been stirred by the great Miracle on Ice which saw the US overcome a great Soviet Union side. The final against Finland was almost as dramatic as the United States came from 2-1 down to win 4-2 in front of an audience of 32.8 million.

Figures here are very different but all of these games produced high drama, usually at the end of a series. Perhaps, therefore, the structure of hockey needs consideration too in order to address those dipping viewing figures and to stir interest in the armchair fan.


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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com