The Great Canadian Ratings Report: NHL entry draft an indication of Connor McDavid's drawing power

Connor McDavid.
Connor McDavid.

It may be a bit much to ask of an 18-year-old, but Connor McDavid just might be the key to Rogers improving its NHL ratings next season.

If Friday's NHL entry draft is an indication, the young man has drawing power. The draft coverage drew an average of 1 million viewers to Sportsnet, a 47 per cent increase over last year's audience, second only to the 1.09 million who watched the 2011 draft.

Although it was a foregone conclusion that the Edmonton Oilers were going to take McDavid as the first choice, the young man has enough drawing power to still pull in a big audience. Add in the fact that the Toronto Maple Leafs, the nation's biggest draw despite years of futility, were picking fourth and the conditions were perfect for big ratings.

That's good news for Rogers, which needs increased interest from the likes of Edmonton and the presence of hope in Toronto to boost ratings. At this stage, it looks like a good bet, though hardly a sure thing.

Another good bet is that Bell Media has seen the end of multimillion-viewer ratings for the Women's World Cup.

The high water mark came on Saturday when Canada lost to England in the quarterfinal, a game that drew an average of 3,014,000 (3.2 million when French-language RDS is added in.) That was a tournament record and the most-watched women's soccer game since Canada lost to the U.S. in the 2012 Olympics. That game drew 3.7 million.

Saturday's game drew a total of 7.5 million people and peaked at 4.3 million.

Although Sunday's final won't come close to that thanks to Canada's exit, this will be a successful tournament for Bell. Canada's games averaged 2.4 million viewers and overall audiences are four times what they were in 2011.

Even with the time difference figured in, that's impressive.

That's not to say Sunday's final (7 p.m. ET, CTV and TSN) will be a dog. The China-U.S. quarterfinal on Friday averaged 859,000 viewers -- the most ever for a women's soccer game not involving Canada.

Meanwhile, the CFL got mixed results in its opening weekend. The good news is that the Winnipeg-Saskatchewan game on Saturday attracted a big crowd (780,000) despite going head-to-head with Canada's World Cup game.

That's an impressive feat.

But the other contests were well below last season's average.

Yes, they faced competition from the World Cup, but failing to hit the 500,000 mark is a rare occurrence for the CFL. Things should improve this week with Canada out of the soccer picture.

Here are the most-watched English-language sports events from the past weekend, according to Numeris overnight ratings:

1. Women's World Cup, Canada vs. England, Saturday, CTV: 3,014,000

2. NHL, Entry Draft, Friday, Sportsnet: 1,000,000

3. Women's World Cup: China vs. U.S., Friday, CTV: 859,000

4. CFL, Bombers at Roughriders, Saturday, TSN: 780,000

5. MLB, Rangers at Blue Jays, Sunday, Sportsnet: 767,000

6. MLB, Rangers at Blue Jays, Saturday, Sportsnet: 752,000

7. Women's World Cup, Australia vs. Japan, Saturday, CTV: 716,000

8. CFL, Eskimos vs. Argonauts, Saturday, TSN: 498,000

9. MLB, Rangers at Blue Jays, Friday, Sportsnet One: 481,000

10. CFL, Tiger-Cats at Stampeders, Friday, TSN: 453,000

11. Women's World Cup, Germany vs. France, Friday, TSN: 449,000

12. MLB, Yankees at Astros, Sunday, Sportsnet: 447,000

13. Auto racing, NASCAR Sprint Cup, Sunday, TSN: 406,000

14. PGA, Travelers Championship final round, Sunday, Global: 388,000

15. MLB, Royals at Athletics, Sunday, Sportsnet: 203,000

16. PGA, Travelers Championship third round, Saturday, Global: 192,000

17. UFC, Machida vs. Romero, Saturday, TSN: 165,000

18. MLB, Yankees at Astros, Saturday, Sportsnet: 124,000

19. Soccer, UEFA under-21, Portugal vs. Germany, Saturday, TSN: 105,000


Free at last: For those who can't get enough hockey talk, even when the beach is calling, the NHL has a Canada Day treat: Free Agent Day. While not yet a national holiday, the event is a must-see for those who must see who's signing with whom and who might sign with whom and for how much. Sportsnet and TSN get things rolling at 11 a.m. ET on Wednesday.

Yee-haw: Get your Stetsons and boots ready, it's Calgary Stampede time again. The parade gets things hopping on Friday (11 a.m. ET, CBC) while coverage of the ropin', ridin' and whoopin' starts Saturday ( 2 p.m. ET, CBC.)

Wheel excitement: While most of the weekend's attention will be focused on the Women's World Cup final (Sunday, 7 p.m. ET, CTV and TSN), the cycling world will be glued to its lycra-covered bottoms for the annual test of endurance known as the Tour de France. Coverage starts Saturday (8 a.m. ET, Sportsnet.)