The fans were always going to come back when the lockout ended, as long as those idiots didn’t push their ego clash into a full cancelled season. With that established, the strong ratings for NBC on opening day should have been expected.
But boy, were they strong, in context.
NBC is reporting a 2.0 overnight rating for the NHL’s regular-season debut in 2013, the highest overnight for NBC since the network took over coverage (after the other lockout … the one in 2005, not 1995) and “the best for any regular-season game on any network, excluding Winter Classics, since a 2.3 overnight for three-game regional on ABC (1/12/02).”
More records locally for NBC:
The overnight ratings for Pittsburgh (19.4), Philadelphia (7.8) and Chicago (6.6) were NBC's best-ever in those markets for the NHL regular season, excluding Winter Classics. The 1.5 rating for Los Angeles was best for that market, excluding Winter Classics, since NBC's NHL regional telecast on March 4, 2007 (Colo-Det/Phil-Pitt/Caro-Atl; 1.8).
While the ratings were good, it’s the same formula of dependable markets and good fortune that fuel these numbers for the NHL, just like they do in the Stanley Cup Final.
Not only are the Flyers and Penguins the hottest rivalry in the League, but this was their first game since the chaotic circus of a playoff series last season – and, in case you couldn’t tell, the Penguins can push a national number (38 share!). The Los Angeles Kings were raising a banner. The Chicago Blackhawks are a team that’s red-hot locally.
In other words, it’s a bigger story if the NHL didn’t pop this number than that it did. But it’s still an impressive start for the League after the lockout and a sign that its momentum on US TV hasn’t waned.
(Oh, and if you’re crowing about NHL attendance numbers, stop. Discounted tickets, “distributed” tickets … there are ways to juice the figures for opening night, which is typically well-attended anyway. Watch the midweek games over the next month for a real attendance picture.)