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The Great Canadian Ratings Report: Blue Jays bounce back with big numbers

Chris Zelkovich
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Jose Bautista and Melky Cabrera celebrate Cabrera's home run Sunday against the Yankees.

While the Toronto Blue Jays are practically everyone's choice for the American League East basement this season, their loyal fans aren't ready to abandon them yet.

The Jays drew huge numbers, both in the stands and on television, for their first home stand of the 2014 MLB season after a tepid start on the road. Their home opener on Friday pulled in an average of 896,000 viewers on Sportsnet with 3.8 million Canadians watching some or all of the game.

That's down about half a million viewers from last year's home debut -- also the season opener -- but still an impressive audience considering the low expectations for the team and the fact that it was up against an all-Canadian NHL matchup. In fact, it outdrew that Montreal-Ottawa game on CBC by almost 300,000 viewers.

When you can beat hockey in Canada, you've got something.

Things didn't cool off for the Jays over the weekend, with both Yankees games pulling in an average of more than 660,000 viewers. The fact they were playing the Yankees, who always draw well, helped but Sportsnet will be happy that the weekend series was well ahead of last year's average of 523,000 viewers.

With only one Canadian team likely in the NHL playoffs, the Jays should be able to get some extra attention this spring. So should the Toronto Raptors, who will give Toronto basketball fans a rare taste of the playoffs.

Raptors fans have been complaining about the number of games carried on channels like TSN2 and Sportsnet One, which don't have wide distribution. The lesser channels tend to drag down ratings -- Toronto FC's win over Columbus drew a paltry 53,000 viewers on Sportsnet360 Saturday. But two key games over the weekend on the main Sportsnet channel and TSN didn't crack the 200,000 mark.

It will be interesting to see how many viewers they pick up once the playoffs start.

The problems

Here are the most-watched sports events on English-language Canadian television over the past weekend, according to BBM Canada overnight ratings:

1. NHL, Jets-Leafs/Wings-Habs, Saturday, CBC: 2,005,000

2. MLB, Yankees at Jays, Friday, Sportsnet: 896,000

3. NHL, Kings at Canucks, Saturday, CBC: 779,000

4. MLB, Yankees at Jays, Sunday, Sportsnet: 684,000

5. MLB, Yankees at Jays, Saturday, Sportsnet: 664,000

6. NHL, Habs at Senators, Friday, CBC: 616,000

7. Curling, men's world championship Page playoff, Friday, TSN: 357,000

8. PGA, Shell Houston Open, Sunday, Global: 338,000

9. NHL, Ducks at Oilers, Sunday, TSN: 305,000

10. PGA, Shell Houston Open, Saturday, Global: 269,000

11. Curling, world men's bronze medal game repeat, Saturday, TSN: 243,000

12. Curling, men's world championship repeat, Friday, TSN: 228,000

13. Auto racing, F1 Bahrain Grand Prix, Sunday, TSN: 225,000

14. Basketball, NCAA final four, Saturday, TSN: 215,000

15. Basketball, NCAA championship, Monday, TSN: 202,000 (CBS audience not calculated)

16. NBA, Raptors at Bucks, Saturday, Sportsnet: 198,000

17. Auto racing, F1 Bahrain Grand Prix repeat, Sunday, TSN: 176,000

18. Curling, men's world championship, Friday, TSN: 168,000

19. NBA, Pacers at Raptors, Friday, TSN: 161,000

20. Curling, men's world championship bronze game, Saturday, TSN2: 155,000

THREE TO WATCH

Soccer to `em: The UEFA Champions League gets down to the nitty gritty this week as the semifinalists will be decided. On Wednesday, Manchester United clashes with Bayern Munich clash (2:30 p.m., EDT, Sportsnet) while Barcelona and Atletico Madrid meet in an all-Spanish affair (2:30 p.m., EDT, Sportsnet World.)

Whispering among the pines in Augusta: The golf commentators will be cranking out the syrup and using their best azalea-related metaphors when the sport's annual spring coming-out party starts in Augusta. But despite the high treacle quotient, this is an event that can survive anything -- including the absence of Tiger Woods. The first two rounds are on TSN (3 p.m., EDT, Thursday and Friday) while Global has the weekend finale (3 p.m., Saturday and 2 p.m., Sunday.)

And then there was one: The country will get an opportunity to see something unusual on Saturday night: a Canadian team heading to the NHL playoffs. The Montreal Canadiens take on the New York Rangers as they prepare to carry the flag alone into battle this spring -- the first time only one Canadian team has made the playoffs in more than 40 years. Parts of the country will have to settle for the golf-bound Leafs and Senators, though. Saturday, 7 p.m., EDT, CBC.

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