No Blues for NHL as Game 7 sets Stanley Cup ratings benchmark

St. Louis boring? Not when their team just won the Stanley Cup. 

Who needs the Chicago Blackhawks?

That’s the sentiment NBC Sports and the NHL are having Thursday in the light of record-setting ratings between teams in the 10th and 21st-largest television markets.

The St. Louis Blues clinched its first-ever Stanley Cup championship (much to the chagrin of some Blackhawks fans) defeating the Boston Bruins 4-1 at TD Garden, avenging a 1970 series loss to the same team (swept 4-0.) The Blues entered the league in 1967 in the first NHL expansion effort.

Game seven of the Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and the St. Louis Blues scored the highest rating for a non-Olympic hockey game in the United States in the last 25 years, earning a 4.9 household rating and 8.94 million viewers, up 2 percent in rating from the last Game 7 (Bruins-Canucks) in 2011.

You would have to go back to the 1960s and 1970s to find higher-rated Stanley Cup Final games, including a Blackhawks-Montreal Canadiens Game 7 on CBS in 1971 (12.41 million) and Game 6 between the same two teams on NBC in 1973 (9.41 million), both prime-time games. Those numbers are even more remarkable given both games were blacked out locally in the Chicago market (the Canadiens clinched on Chicago’s home ice both times.)

In St. Louis, the Blues’ victory earned a 41.8 household overnight rating and 60 share for Tegna’s KSDK, the highest-rated Blues games in the history of the market with records dating back to 1989 when the market was first metered. In Boston, the game drew a 30.2 for NBC-owned WBTS, down 20 percent from Game 6 of the 2013 Blackhawks-Bruins matchup. It should be noted in 2013, NBC was on a different station in Boston (now independent WHDH.) In a complicated move, NBC shifted its affiliation to an existing Telemundo station on January 1, 2017. NBC and Telemundo share Comcast as a corporate parent.

The Boston rating also fell far short of WBTS’ record, a 55.9 for the New England Patriots’ appearance in Super Bowl LII.

In Chicago, the game earned a strong 6.2 household rating for NBC 5 (WMAQ-TV), the highest non-Blackhawks contest in the market in eight years. Game 7 had no other local sports competition as the Cubs played earlier in the day and the White Sox were off.

Among adults 18-49, Game 7 earned a 2.7 rating, easily clearing the rest of the broadcast network competition, including ABC’s much-hyped premieres of game shows Press Your Luck and Card Sharks (both with an 0.9). But ratings for the duo did give ABC its most watched summer Wednesday (excluding sports) in five years. 

Since 2010, any record-breaking news involving ratings have mainly dealt with the Blackhawks, as the team’s resurgence has helped the league. But since the team’s fortunes have ebbed since 2016 (including being swept in 2016 and 2017 in the first round and being completely absent from the playoffs the last two years), the league has held up fine, as NBC notes this is the most watched Stanley Cup Playoffs in nearly two decades and the most watched Stanley Cup Final since 2015 when the Blackhawks won their last Cup to date against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The entire Boston-St. Louis series averaged a 3.0 household rating, up 11 percent from last year’s final between Washington and Las Vegas.

Ratings from Canada were not available, but it is understood the Raptors’ appearance in the NBA Finals has led to record-breaking viewership numbers for basketball north of the border – making it likely the Stanley Cup Final could be outdrawn by the NBA Finals for the first time ever. Since this post regarding the Raptors’ broadcast rights, both Rogers and Bell Media have made NBA Finals games available on their respective over-the-air networks CityTV and CTV 2, with Thursday night’s Game 6 airing nationwide on CTV.

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