Gary Bettman confident Canada will watch All-American NHL playoffs

Gary Bettman confident Canada will watch All-American NHL playoffs

Barring several dozen factors colliding in a perfect storm of miraculous circumstances, the Stanley Cup Playoffs will be sans Canadian teams this postseason. At this point only the Vancouver Canucks are even mentioned in the League’s daily playoff tracking, and they’re 10 points out of the wild card in the West.

So what does that mean for Canadian interest in the NHL playoffs?

Bad things, man. Bad things.

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In the U.S., there’s a time-honored tradition in which local fan bases tune out of the playoffs once their teams are eliminated. Maybe they’re bitter. Maybe their connection to the NHL is specific to their team and not general to the league. Maybe it’s just too damn nice out in May and June to dedicate three hours on the couch watching a game played on ice.

According to Chris Zelkovich of Yahoo Canada’s The Eh Game, the same holds for Canadian hockey fans:

Look at what happened last season. When Canadian teams were still playing, games involving those teams averaged more than 3 million viewers. Once the last Canadian team was eliminated, ratings dropped and ended up 20 per cent lower than the previous season. With no Canadian team to generate interest, those numbers could drop again.


NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, however, is unconcerned. He acknowledged to the Canadian Press this week that there is “uncertainty” in Canadian ratings with none of the nation’s teams in the playoffs for the first time since 1970. But he thinks the playoffs sell themselves:

Bettman said local teams "tend to draw better" in terms of ratings. "But as long as the hockey is entertaining and exciting and competitive we're hoping and expecting that fans will tune in and watch great hockey," he added.

He also trotted out the old line about Canadians tuning in to watch American teams because they have Canadian players:

"Fifty percent of the players in this game are from Canada so for people to suggest that there isn't still a Canadian-centric focus I think is a little misleading," Bettman said.


Yes, we can totally see all of Canada rallying behind Roberto Luongo and Aaron Ekblad’s Florida Panthers due to their provincial lineage.

The NHL has attempted in recent years to address this fan abandonment issue from a marketing perspective, attempting to paint the postseason as must-see regardless of which teams are playing. The playoffs have been promoted around the Stanley Cup itself as the ultimate prize, and as a tournament that demands committed, communal viewing from fans. (Commercials featuring pretty people wearing newly purchased Shop NHL gear all rushing to the local bar to watch games, for example.)

But it’s an uphill battle; hell, if Canadians aren’t making time for the playoffs because it only features teams from the lower 48, who’s watching at all?

And if Canadians aren’t watching the playoffs … well, that’s the risk you run when you spend billions on Canadian NHL rights.



Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.