The Great Canadian Ratings Report: Habs continue to drive ratings

Chris Zelkovich
The Eh Game

If you're one of those people who believes that the Toronto Maple Leafs are the lone dominant force in Canadian sports broadcasting, you might want to reconsider. The Montreal Canadiens are doing a pretty good job of grabbing the country's attention.

Part of that may be the fact that as Canada's lone representative in the Stanley Cup tournament, they've got the stage to themselves. But that doesn't diminish the ratings they're producing in their series with the Boston Bruins.

Boosted by four straight games that drew more than 3 million viewers, the CBC is averaging 2.98 million viewers for the Boston-Montreal series and Wednesday's Game 7 will almost surely break the 4 million mark. That won't threaten Game 7 of last year's Leafs-Bruins finale, but it's still a huge audience. Add in the 2 million or so who have been watching on French-language RDS and you've got some pretty impressive ratings.

To put those numbers in perspective, the much-vaunted Toronto-Boston series last year averaged 3.5 million viewers, which set a first-round record. The Habs-Bruins series won't beat that, but it should average more than 3 million viewers.

To underscore the value of having a Canadian team in the playoffs, the average so far is more than double what CBC has done with the Pittsburgh-New York series.

If the Canadiens go on to the next round, those numbers should soar even higher. And if you're one of those people who believes there isn't much difference between Americans and Canadians, the ratings for the NFL draft should change your mind. In the U.S., the sight of football executives putting caps and jerseys on oversized young men in Thursday's first round drew an average of 9.9 million viewers on ESPN and a record average of 2.5 million viewers on the NFL Network. A total of 45 million people tuned in to some of the three-day coverage.

In Canada, Thursday's opening round on TSN2 attracted 82,000 viewers. On the bright side, that was more than double the number who watched last year. Even factoring in TSN2's smaller subscription base (6.5 million) and the fact Canada has about 10 per cent of the U.S. population, that's a big gap.

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

NHL

Bruins at Canadiens

Monday

CBC

3,670,000

NHL

Canadiens at Bruins

Saturday

CBC

3,073,000

NHL

Penguins at Rangers

Sunday

CBC

1,480,000

NHL

Rangers at Penguins

Friday

CBC

1,310,000

NHL

Ducks at Kings

Saturday

TSN

776,000

NHL

Blackhawks at Wild

Friday

TSN

726,000

NHL

Wild at Blackhawks

Sunday

TSN

620,000

MLB

Angels at Blue Jays

Sunday

Sportsnet

409,000

MLB

Angels at Blue Jays

Saturday

Sportsnet

393,000

Golf

Players Championship, final round

Sunday

Global

344,000

MLB

Angels at Blue Jays

Friday

Sportsnet One

335,000

Hockey-Worlds

Canada vs. Slovakia

Saturday

TSN

301,000

Golf

Players Championship, third round

Saturday

Global

267,000

Auto racing

F1 Spanish Grand Prix

Sunday

TSN

183,000

MLB

Red Sox at Rangers

Sunday

Sportsnet

166,00

UFC

Brown vs. Silva

Saturday

Sportsnet360

144,000

Soccer

Newcastle at Liverpool

Sunday

TSN

141,000

UFC

Preliminary bouts

Saturday

Sportsnet360

113,000

Soccer

West Ham at Manchester City

Sunday

Sportsnet

101,000

NBA

Thunder at Clippers

Sunday

TSN

101,000

THREE TO WATCH

United they stood: Of all the things ESPN has done, few can top the “30 for 30” series of documentaries. The excellence continues with We Could Be King, a look at how budget cuts forced two rival schools to merge their football teams and how they overcame the rivalry to win a championship.Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET, TSN.

Thanks for the Memorials: While the Stanley Cup playoffs are drawing their usual millions of viewers, there's another hockey tournament that resonates just as loudly for many fans across the country: the Memorial Cup. Representatives of Canada's major junior leagues, plus a team that gets invited in return for hosting the event, compete for the national title starting this weekend. It all kicks off Friday with the host London Knights taking on the Quebec champion Val-d’Or Foreurs. (7 p.m., ET, Sportsnet.)

Neigh-sayers: The Preakness may be the horse race that inspires the most interest in North America, mainly because there's still a chance that one of the equine competitors could win the Triple Crown. This year's candidate is California Chrome, which looked pretty impressive in winning the Kentucky Derby. Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET, NBC.

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