The Great Canadian Ratings Report: NHL ratings tank as Blue Jays and Raptors rise

·Chris Zelkovich
So far the Stanley Cup playoffs have been met with a huge yawn in Canada.  (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
So far the Stanley Cup playoffs have been met with a huge yawn in Canada. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

As expected, it's shaping up as a long, cold spring for Rogers and its NHL product.

With the first week's audience numbers in, The Canada-free Stanley Cup playoffs are posting even lower numbers than the cable giant feared. Not one game, including the Hockey Night In Canada marquee matchup Saturday night, managed to top the million mark.

The last time that happened was, according to memory, never.

Overall, ratings are down 60 per cent compared to last year.

And unless the NHL gets a lot of Game 7 thrillers, things could get worse.

While this should come as a surprise to absolutely no one considering there's no Canadian content for the first time in almost 50 years, the comparisons are shocking.

Last year, when four Canadian teams made it to the playoffs, the opening weekend produced huge audiences. The Montreal-Ottawa series had two games over 3 million while the Vancouver-Calgary showdown averaged more than 2 million.

It's not really fair to compare all-Canadian series to all-American ones, since the former will always draw huge audiences. But the real worrisome thing for Rogers is that last year's all-American games put this year's to shame.

A Pittsburgh-Rangers game on the opening weekend last year averaged 1.6 million viewers. Nothing this year came even close.

The most-watched game, between Philadelphia and Washington on Saturday, averaged 967,000.

The reason is that a lot of Canadians checked out of hockey once their teams made it clear they were heading down the drain. How do you get excited about Nashville and Anaheim when you haven't been following the NHL since January.

Although Rogers said this week that once again it will somehow make money on the NHL, it sure isn't impressing advertisers with big ratings.

One of the beneficiaries of this decreased interest in hockey is the NBA, specifically the Toronto Raptors. The first two games of the Toronto-Indianapolis series averaged 613,000 viewers on TSN and Sportsnet -- about triple the season average and 20 per cent ahead of what the team drew last season on its first two playoff games.

With hockey interest waning, a good Raptors run could finally provide the team with the breakthrough it's been looking for.

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

1. NHL, Flyers at Capitals, Saturday, CBC: 967,000

2. MLB, Blue Jays at Red Sox, Saturday, Sportsnet: 846,000

3. NHL, Sharks at Kings, Saturday, CBC: 822,000

4. MLB, Blue Jays at Red Sox, Friday, Sportsnet One: 772,000

5. NHL, Lightning at Red Wings, Sunday, CBC: 712,000

6. MLB, Blue Jays at Red Sox, Sunday, Sportsnet One: 692,000

7. NBA, Pacers at Raptors, Saturday, Sportsnet: 602,000

8. NHL, Predators at Ducks, Friday, CBC: 600,000

9. NHL, Blackhawks at Blues, Friday, Sportsnet: 594,000

10. NHL, Red Wings at Lightning, Friday, CBC: 574,000

11. NHL, Rangers at Penguins, Saturday, CBC: 567,000

12. NHL, Panthers at Islanders, Sunday, Sportsnet: 492,000

13. NHL, Predators at Ducks, Sunday, Sportsnet: 461,000

14. NHL, Blues at Blackhawks, Sunday, Sportsnet: 382,000

15. NHL, Wild at Stars, Saturday, Sportsnet: 341,000

16. Curling, Players' Championship men's final, Sunday, Sportsnet One: 318,000

17. Curling, Players' Championship evening round robin Friday, Sportsnet One: 231,000

18. Curling, Players' Championship women's quarters, Saturday, Sportsnet One: 211,000

19. Curling, Players' Championship women's final, Sunday, Sportsnet 360: 176,000

20. Curling, Players' Championship semifinals, Sunday, Sportsnet One:171,000

21. Auto racing, F1 Chinese Grand Prix, Sunday, TSN: 160,000

22. Diving, FINA World Series, Saturday, CBC: 144,000

23. Auto racing, NASCAR Sprint Cup Food City 500, Sunday, TSN: 139,000 (Fox audience not measured)

24. Soccer, Crystal Palace at Arsenal, Sunday, Sportsnet: 121,000

15. Soccer, Manchester City at Chelsea, Saturday, TSN: 111,000

26. Skating, World synchro championships, Saturday, CBC: 110,000

27. NBA, Charlotte at Miami, Sunday, TSN: 104,000


Western promises: One of the best series so far in the Stanley Cup finals has been the California showdown between perennial playoff underperformers, the San Jose Sharks, and playoff giants, the Los Angeles Kings. Game 3 goes Wednesday (10:30 p.m. ET, CBC.)

Basket cases: The Toronto Raptors are doing their best not to look like the team that fell flat on its face last spring. They're tied 1-1 with the Indiana Pacers and have a chance to take the lead for a change on Thursday on the road (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN.)

In the swing of things: Teen golf sensation Lydia Ko has a chance to record a rare triple by winning her third consecutive Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic (I know, I know ...) But she'll have to fend off Canadian teen sensation Brooke Henderson, who made her mark on the pro tour by leading the tournament for three rounds last year. Unfortunately, it was the first three rounds. Action (I know, I know ...) starts Thursday (6 p.m. ET, Golf Channel.)





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