Canucks and Beyond

Stanley Cup Finals Game 1 scores big in US Ratings

06/02/2011 at 3:52pm EDT

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.

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