It’s pretty safe to say that the Winter Classic NHL games on New Year’s Day are here to stay. Four of the five most-watched NHL regular season games since 1975 are Winter Classic games, with this year’s Penguins-Caps game at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh checking in at number one.
The New Year’s Day game won by the Caps 3-1 over the Penguins had 4.5 million viewers on TV in addition to the more than 60,000 fans in attendance. The 4.5 million viewers figure translates to a 2.3 national rating using the funky gorilla math they employ. And get this, in Pittsburgh, the game received a 32 rating — much higher than the 7.6 rating in Washington, D.C.
The strong ratings for the Winter Classic are in conjunction with the TV numbers from NBC and Versus in the playoffs last year, proving that the interest in the NHL is rebuilding. One has to figure the four-part series on HBO only helped boost fan interest and awareness in the game, resulting in the higher ratings. If the NHL is wise, they will follow the same formula to lead up to the game each year.
If you recall, the ratings for the Christmas day NBA games also did extremely strong numbers, and the ratings for the college football bowl games were also up compared to last year through the first few weeks. It appears as if people are just watching more TV, watching more sports, or both.
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