From Population Statistics we get a good breakdown of the numbers:
Your National Hockey League is on a real roll right now: On the heels of a court victory affirming its control over franchise ownership and relocation vis-à-vis the Coyotes and Jim Balsillie, it got confirmation that the just-completed Stanley Cup playoffs this year featured some of the highest television ratings in 36 years.
NBC’s Game 7 broadcast of the Stanley Cup final between the Penguins and the Red Wings on Friday night drew an average of 8 million viewers, the biggest American television audience for any N.H.L. game since the 9.4 million who watched the Game 6 Cup finale between Montreal and Chicago in 1973…
The size of the Pens-Wings audience is even more impressive, Variety reports, because Friday is customarily the lightest viewing night of the week.
And of course, some head-to-head context with the NHL’s sister league:
Sunday night’s ABC broadcast of Game 5 of the N.B.A. finals, in which the Los Angeles Lakers won the title against the Orlando Magic, attracted an average of 14 million viewers. That means the N.H.L. telecast drew an audience 57 percent the size of the N.B.A.’s. Traditionally in the U.S., N.H.L. games draw from 25 percent to 33 percent of the audience that watches N.B.A. games.
Yup, hockey fans can take pride in the idea that their sport is half has popular as pro hoops! But good news on the TV front is rare enough that this counts as a resounding victory. The Friday night result gives a nice boost to the final average viewership for the five NBC-broadcasted games of 5.6 million.
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Gary Bettman must be positively glowing with all the good news. The Courts have temporarily shut out Balsillie, Game 7 draws 8 million viewers and they get to see Sidney Crosby raise the Cup, it would appear that all is good in hockey, from an NHL point of view.