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The Great Canadian Ratings Report: Habs continue to drive ratings

Chris Zelkovich
Eh Game

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Fans are tuning in to watch the Canadiens' playoff run. (Getty Images)

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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