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Penguins-Caps Winter Classic Kills it With Monster Ratings

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.

Photo Credit: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Canadians Sure Love Their Hockey

And apparently so do we. Not as much as them, but the TV ratings for the Olympics gold-medal game between the U.S. and Canada were through the roof in both countries. The game apparently had an average viewership of 27.6 million and maxed out at 34.8 million viewers at the end of the 3rd period. The only game with a higher rating in the U.S. in the last 30 years was the 1980 gold-medal game against Finland which followed up the Miracle on Ice. Now if you thought that sounded like strong ratings, the numbers in Canada blow ours away:

It was also the most-watched television broadcast ever in Canadian history, with an average audience of 16.6 million viewers. Nearly half of the Canadian population watched the entire game on average, while 80 percent of Canadians watched some part of the game (26.5 million).

80% tuned in at one point? Damn, that’s freaking crazy. The Super Bowl usually attracts less than 50% of our population by comparison. Also putting this game into proper context, the gold-medal game outdrew the Rose Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, March Madness championship game, and the Daytona 500. Without a doubt this was a boon for hockey and hopefully just what the NHL needed to regain some of the popularity it once had. Remember, it was only 15-20 years ago that the NHL had equal popularity as the NBA. I hope this enthusiasm keeps up.