People watch hockey: Gold medal ratings huge for USA/Canada

Steve Lepore of Puck The Media passed along the first glimpse of the enormous ratings success in the U.S. for the gold medal game against Canada: 17.6/33 overnight rating, via Sports Business Daily, and 27.6 million viewers on average. Writes Lepore:

This is up 46% from the 2002 USA/Canada showdown, and will very likely be the highest-rated hockey game since 1980. The share means that 1 in every 3 Americans with a TV were watching the game. This is, to put it professionally, out of this world.

Sports Media Watch offers further perspective on the hockey numbers:

Sunday's game drew a higher overnight rating than every World Series game since 2004 (including every game of Yankees/Phillies last year), every NBA Finals telecast since 1998, and every NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four game since at least '98.

Excluding the NFL, the 17.6 overnight for the game is the second-highest of the year for any sporting event, behind only the Texas/Alabama BCS National Championship Game in January (18.2).

Even here in Vancouver, I could still sense how huge this game was playing back in the States. I didn't have non-hockey friends texting me about the USA/Canada smackdown -- I had non-sports fans talking to me about it. This really hit home when Lady Wysh touched base and said my hockey allergic mother-in-law was (a) watching the game, (b) kept mishearing Roberto Luongo's(notes) name as "Ulongo" which led to (c) her believing he was Samoan.

What a great day for hockey. Hopefully some of the newbies stick around to watch that level of pace and anxiety in the Stanley Cup playoffs. And, hopefully, the ratings and reviews don't create a new wave of "FIX THE NHL, FOR THE SAKE OF THE CHILDREN!!!" nonsensical pacifist arguments that Barry Petchesky of Deadspin anticipated in a great column last week.

UPDATE: From Puck The Media, the release from NBC regarding to the game's final audience, billed as "the most-watched hockey game in 30 years":

TOPS 2002 SALT LAKE GOLD MEDAL GAME BY 10.5 MILLION VIEWERS: The 27.6 million viewers for Sunday's gold medal game was 10.5 million more (up 61 percent) from the Canada-USA gold medal game from the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics (17.1 million viewers). The 15.2/30 rating for yesterday's game was four-and-a-half rating points higher than the 10.7/24 for the 2002 gold medal game and was the highest-rated hockey game of any kind since the USA vs. Finland 1980 gold medal game (23.2/61). The "Miracle on Ice" semifinal game between the USA and Russia had a household rating of a 23.9/37.

The audience peaked at 34.8 million viewers (18.6/34 hh rating) from 5:30-6 p.m. ET, when the USA's Zach Parise(notes) (New Jersey Devils) sent the game to overtime with the tying goal with just 24.4 seconds left in regulation.

Check out the city-by-city breakdown of the ratings on PTM. Game broke a 50 share in Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Minneapolis. Amazing.

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