As I have written previously, Chicago was off the charts in ratings for Blackhawks games. More than 800,000 homes were tuned into their Game 7 loss to Los Angeles Sunday. The town accounted for more than 30 percent of NBCSN’s overall national rating.
The Blackhawks definitely have captured Chicago. But has hockey done the same?
Obviously, the numbers won’t be anywhere near the same, but has Blackhawks fever created more hockey fans who will tune in to watch other teams play in the Stanley Cup Final?
It’s only one game, but Chicago did a 3.8 rating for the opener, placing 12th among major markets. That’s actually a pretty good number, considering Chicago usually ranks much lower for telecasts of out-of-market games in all sports.
So perhaps some of those Blackhawks fans are becoming hockey fans.
Nationally, the game did a 3.8 overnight rating on NBC. It was the second best ever for a Game 1, trailing, as expected, last year’s Chicago-Boston series, which did a 4.8 for the opener.
Prior to Wednesday, I asked NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood about whether Chicago viewers would tune for the Final?
“I think we’re seeing much more out of market viewing for hockey over the last few years. And a lot of it has to do with getting out of the tribal notion that hockey fans are just siloed to their team.
“I think the creation of wins in that rivalry is one of the things that allowed people to realize you can watch hockey if your team’s not playing and there’s some stuff on the ice that you want to see that’s pretty special.
“And Boston consumed the last round at a very high level and they were knocked in round two, so it’s good to see that the hockey fan can watch more than just their home team.”
I also posed that question to NBC analyst Ed Olczyk, a Chicago native who works local TV for the Blackhawks.
“I think that what is taking place there and with the impact that the Blackhawks have had in the youth hockey community and, you know, I’m just not talking about, you know, young hockey players. I’m talking about, you know, there are guys that skated 11:00, 12:00 at night, guys that get up at 5:00 in the morning and play hockey before they go to work.
“I think that you do get a trickledown effect of some diehards that will watch hockey because they are passionate about the game. And I think also, too, as a fan, you see how the team that you just – that just knocked out your team, how they’re going to fair in the Stanley Cup Final and see how they match up against the, you know, the best from the East, as far as the Rangers winning the Eastern Conference.”
Personally, when I got home last night, I tuned in for the third period and overtime. A few years ago, as in pre-Blackhawks getting good, I might not have done that.
I have become more of a hockey fan, not just a Blackhawks fan. The NHL hopes there are more out there like me.