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How NBC earned blockbuster ratings for Bruins/Canucks Game 7

The Boston Bruins' victory over the Vancouver Canucks for the Stanley Cup tied the best Game 7 overnight rating on record, earning a 5.7 overnight rating and a 10 share for NBC. That tied Game 7 of the New Jersey Devils vs. Mighty Ducks of Anaheim series from 2003, the previous benchmark.

Of course, that series featured a team from the New York market battling a team from the Los Angeles market.

That the 2011 Stanley Cup Final ended with such a ratings victory despite the presence of a Canadian team — whose local viewership doesn't factor into the ratings — is remarkable.

From NBC Sports:

Last night's game was up 14 percent from the 2009 Stanley Cup Game 7 (Pittsburgh-Detroit, 5.0/10). The 5.7 overnight for Game 7 ties for the second-best Stanley Cup overnight rating in 37 years, behind only last year's Chicago-Philadelphia Game 6 which registered a 5.8/10 overnight (5/19/74 Boston-Philadelphia Gm 6, 7.6/27 on NBC).

If the question is "how did NBC overcome the Canadian team drag?" the answer is two words: New England.

From NBC Sports:

The Boston market earned a 43.4 rating and a 64 share, the best overnight on record for a hockey game in Boston (dating back to 1991) and the best overnight in the Boston market featuring a Boston team in any major sports championship since Super Bowl XLII (Patriots-Giants, 55.6 on 2/3/08).

Again, a 64 share means 64 percent of all televisions in use in Boston on Wednesday night were watching the NHL. We continue:

Boston's seven-game average for the Stanley Cup Final (five games on NBC, two games on VERSUS) was a 28.1/44, 12 percent higher than ABC's seven-game Boston average for last year's NBA Finals (25.0/40 for Boston-LA Lakers).

Here are the top local markets for Game 7 in the overnights, where three of the top five are cities with Bruins loyalties:

1. Boston, 43.4/64
2. Providence, 25.9/38
3. Buffalo, 10.6/17
T4. Detroit, 8.7/14
T4. Hartford, 8.7/13
6. Pittsburgh, 7.6/12
7. Denver, 7.2/14
T8. Minneapolis, 6.7/12
T8. Las Vegas, 6.7/11
10. St. Louis, 6.2/10

Puck The Media has the half-hour breakdowns, with the game peaking in the 10:30 p.m. ET hour at a 7.1 rating and a 12 share.

The NHL has been very fortunate for the last four seasons. Very, very fortunate. The Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins in back-to-back Finals pitted two teams with national fan bases (and a galaxy of stars). The Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks featured two hockey-crazed markets and two teams working on long Cup droughts.

The same championship starvation was there for Boston fans. Bandwagoners joined the fan base; old guys in tattered Bobby Orr sweaters came home. The series changed on the ice and in the market after Nathan Horton(notes) was knocked out of Game 3. Game 7 was going to be enormous; but the fact that New England pushed the national rating to a record level is incredible.

But again: It's Boston, Chicago, Philly, Detroit, Pittsburgh. It's U.S. markets that can push a national rating and that casual hockey fans around the U.S. make time to watch when they're playing for a championship.

It's been a great four years for the NHL and NBC.

How different might this story have read if we just witnessed a Tampa Bay Lightning/Vancouver Canucks Game 7?

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