The Great Canadian Ratings Report: Early results bode well for World Cup of Hockey

Team Canada goalie Carey Price and the rest of his teammates have already won the hearts -- and eyeballs -- of Canadians.
Team Canada goalie Carey Price and the rest of his teammates have already won the hearts -- and eyeballs -- of Canadians.

When plans were announced for the World Cup of Hockey, more than a few eyebrows were raised (including those split by hockey sticks.)

Yes, it was hockey and that always sells in Canada. But this was taking place in the dying days of summer and there were doubts that excitement could be created for an event that seemed to have been drawn up on a napkin. (Hey guys, why not have a team of young players and call it Team North America, for no logical reason?)

Well, the tournament hasn't even started and already the critics are wondering what they were thinking in doubting the supremacy of hockey and the lure of the Maple Leaf.

This is Canada, right?

A meaningless pre-tournament game between Canada and the U.S. on Saturday night drew an average audience of 903,000 to Sportsnet. That was more than the two CFL Labour Day rematch games that day and more than any NFL game drew in the league's opening week.

The two-game average for Canada's matches against the U.S. (there was another one Friday) was 785,000. That's pretty impressive, considering that the games were basically glorified scrimmages.

In fact, the only thing that beat a summer hockey practice was the Toronto Blue Jays, who drew an average of  1.25 million viewers for their three-game series against the Boston Red Sox.

As crazy as it seems, once this thing gets rolling hockey could even challenge the Jays for top spot.

Topsy turvy: The only predictable thing about ratings is their unpredictability. On Labour Day, the game between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Toronto Argonauts averaged 902,000 -- more than any NFL game hit during its opening week. The rematch, a pretty entertaining game, averaged barely half that (497,000.) Yes, it was up against the NFL and the tail end of a crazy Blue Jays game, but this one is hard to figure. Last week, the teams produced the largest CFL audience of the year. The rematch was the least-watched CFL game of the week (Friday's Montreal-B.C. game averaged 472,000 on TSN and 95,000 on RDS.) 

Radio daze: While Sportsnet and TSN seem to flip back and forth at the top of the cable-TV viewing list, there is no battle going on in the all-important Toronto radio market. In the 25-54 age bracket, Sportsnet 590 The FAN basically slaughtered TSN Radio 1050 in August. The big winner at TSN? The afternoon drive show, with a 0.9 audience share. That was less than half the audience share of the FAN's lowest-rated slot: overnights (1.9). The FAN's biggest winner: Blue Jays broadcasts (10.1 share.) TSN Radio is doing well in other markets, but in Toronto there's not much hope.

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

1. MLB, Red Sox at Blue Jays, Sunday, Sportsnet: 1,430,000

2. MLB, Red Sox at Blue Jays, Saturday, Sportsnet: 1,333,000

3. MLB, Red Sox at Blue Jays, Friday, Sportsnet: 1,010,000

4. World Cup hockey, Canada vs. U.S., Saturday, Sportsnet: 903,000

5. NFL, Giants-Cowboys/Dolphins-Seahawks/Lions-Colts, Sunday, CTV: 899,000

6. CFL, Stampeders at Eskimos, Saturday, TSN: 789,000

7. CFL, Roughriders at Blue Bombers, Saturday, TSN: 701,000

8. World Cup of hockey, Canada vs. U.S., Friday, Sportsnet 1/360: 663,000

9. NFL, Bills-Ravens/Packers-Jags/Bengals-Jets/Vikes-Titans, Sunday, CTV/TSN: 657,000

10. NFL, Patriots at Cardinals, Sunday, TSN: 499,000 (NBC viewers not measured)

11. CFL, Tiger-Cats at Argonauts, Sunday, TSN: 497,000

12. CFL, Alouettes at Lions, Friday, TSN: 472,000

13. Paralympics, Prime-time coverage, Sunday, CBC: 291,000

14, Tennis, U.S. Open men's final, Sunday, TSN: 243,000

15. Paralympics, Late-night coverage, Saturday, CBC: 228,000

16. Equestrian, Spruce Meadows show jumping, Sunday, CBC: 207,000

17. Paralympics, Afternoon coverage, Saturday, CBC: 196,000

18. Soccer, Manchester City at Manchester United, Saturday, Sportsnet: 188,000

19. Equestrian, Nations Cup, Saturday, CBC: 179,000

20. Paralympics, Afternoon coverage, Sunday, CBC: 173,000

21. PGA, BMW Championship final round, Sunday, Global, 171,000

22. Athletics, Diamond League Brussels, Saturday, CBC: 169,000

23. Tennis, U.S. Open women's final, Saturday, TSN: 167,000

24. Paralympics, Prime-time coverage, Saturday, CBC: 166,000

25. Auto racing, NASCAR Federated 400, Sunday, TSN: 147,000


Euro smash: Far more worldly than the World Cup of Hockey are the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League, which started this week. Next up in the Champions League is a match between Tottenham and Monaco (Wednesday, 2:30 p.m. ET, TSN.)

Battles on the beach: Viewers loved beach volleyball during the Olympics, so it will be interesting to see how many get excited about the Swatch Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour finals this weekend in Toronto. The top men's and women's teams in the world start rolling around in the sand starting Friday (2 p.m. ET, TSN.)

An ice time: After a week of exhibition matches, the World Cup of Hockey gets down to the real thing on Saturday with a pair of  games. Drawing the most interest in these parts will be Canada 's opener against the Czech Republic (Saturday, 8 p.m.  ET, Sportsnet.)