Life in the Slow Lane

June 16, 2009

NHL ratings are up, but does it matter?

Filed under: Sports,Television — pauljlane @ 11:33 am

NBC announced that Friday’s Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals between Detroit and Pittsburgh posted a 4.3 rating and 8 share, making it the most-watched hockey game in America in 36 years (Montreal vs. Chicago, Stanley Cup Finals game 6, May 10, 1973).
That’s great, and so is the fact that the series drew an average of 5.6 million viewers for NBC’s five games (the best since ABC broadcast Detroit-Carolina in 2002).
But does it matter?
Will hockey EVER receive the long-term fan base boost it so desperately craves? Or did a lot of people simply tune in to see a trophy awarded on a slow TV night?
I’d like to believe the former, but if pressed I would say this phenomenal rating is the result of the latter.
Hockey, as great of a game as it is, will never catch on nationwide. People are used to living without it, and they’ll continue to do so come October, when the next season begins. One game can’t possibly sway people to like a sport. If that were the case, the NFL would draw 93 million viewers every week instead of just on Super Bowl Sunday.
Maybe hockey, with stars such as Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, may bring in a few new fans. But don’t hold your breath on this being the great turnaround in the game’s perception. You’ll pass out waiting for that ship to ever set sail.
In the meantime, those of us who do enjoy hockey can continue to cherish the sport even as it’s deciding game gets four minutes of “Sportscenter” coverage, which was less than the NBA Finals – which were on an off night Friday – got, with the ESPN crew even reportig live from the set they built in Orlando’s arena, with no one else in the building (I should stop here, because the shambles that ESPN’s become in terms of objectivity could be a whole other post).
Hockey fans, don’t worry about everyone falling in love with the game. We know what we have. Just go with it.

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