Who needs those Blackhawks anyway?
The 2017 Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators had something last year’s matchup did not: country music stars, lively crowds, and catfish being thrown on the ice.
And that’s just in Nashville.
The series between the Penguins and the upstart Predators saw an increase in ratings from last year’s series between Pittsburgh and the San Jose Sharks – revealing just how dull a place San Jose is in the process.
According to Nielsen, the six-game series drew an average of 4.7 million viewers, up 19 percent from last year. The game six clincher for Pittsburgh drew 7 million viewers and a 2.3 adults 18-49 demo rating – up 21 percent from last year.
However, measured against the 2015 Stanley Cup Final between the Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning, ratings are down double-digits in all categories.
In Pittsburgh, WPXI drew a whopping 40 rating for game six, the second-highest rated NHL game in market history, only behind the 42.2 rating earned by the Penguins-Red Wings game seven Stanley Cup Final matchup, taking place on June 12, 2009, the same day analog TV receivers shut down for good.
Meanwhile, Nashville NBC affiliate WSMV drew a 28.3 rating for game six, and in a surprise, Knoxville NBC affiliate WBIR drew a 10.7 rating ranking third among all markets. Tying for ninth was Memphis’ WMC-TV with a 5.4 – notable, given WMC and other Southern NBC affiliates often pre-empted NHL games in the 1970’s.
For the entire series, Pittsburgh led with a 32 rating followed by Nashville’s 22 rating. Not surprisingly, Chicago did not rank in the top ten on either chart, given the Blackhawks were eliminated in the first round by Nashville. And once again, Chicago also ranked very low in terms of ratings for the entire Stanley Cup Playoffs, led by Pittsburgh and Nashville. Locally, ratings for Blackhawks games declined significantly this season even as the team remained in first place.
Digitally, game six of the Stanley Cup Final drew an average of 101,000 viewers – the highest ever for a NHL game, up 47 percent from last year’s game six.
The feisty spiritedness of both teams not seen since the 2011 Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks (one game alone had 100 penalty minutes) may have contributed to the ratings spike. Also, the rivalry between the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby and the Predators’ P.K. Subban (who was traded to Nashville from Montreal last season) had people talking.
Also notable (and a good selling point for the NHL) was the raucous atmosphere in Nashville for games three and four and the presence of celebrities. The fans chanting (“You Suck” and “It’s All Your Fault” chants directed at the Pittsburgh goalie), annoying as it was even made this Hawks fan jealous. It proves Nashville really knows how to party.
But even as the Penguins skated away with their second consecutive Stanley Cup title, the Predators are also winners – around now for nearly twenty years, they should how hockey can work in a non-traditional pucks market. With a young, exciting team led by Subban and captain Mike Fisher, at least they don’t have to worry about Blackhawks or St. Louis Blues fans taking up seats at Bridgestone Arena in the future.