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How were the KHL’s ratings on ESPN2? Better than Dan Le Batard, not as good as poker

Greg Wyshynski
Puck Daddy

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When analyzing the ratings for professional hockey on ESPN, fans inevitably have one standard for success or failure:

"Did hockey beat poker?"

This Pavlovian response was born out of the trauma we suffered in the NHL's waning years on the World Wide Leader, when televised Texas Hold'em tournaments seemed to take precedence over pucks. Poker became the symbol of ESPN's apathy towards hockey; a rivalry between the two sports (OK, one sport and one game of chance) still rages, as we early await Daniel Negreanu to be our Gandhi ...

With the NHL having locked out its players, Russia's Kontinental Hockey League signed a slew of star players and cut a deal with ESPN: Games would be streamed live on ESPN3 online, and a select few would be featured on ESPN2, marking the first time in several year that professional hockey had a home on the Deuce. (RIP, NHL2Night.)

The first broadcast was Tuesday, Oct. 9 between Alex Ovechkin's Dynamo Moscow and HC Lev Praha, Zdeno Chara's team. On Oct. 14, it was Ovechkin vs. Amur, a game that Dynamo won, 4-1. So, in other words, they weren't under Amur. (Drops mic.)

So how did the KHL on ESPN2 do in the ratings?

Son Of The Bronx had the ESPN and ESPN2 ratings from Oct. 8-14, including the details on the three KHL broadcasts. (For the record: "P2+ (000): Viewers, in thousands, aged 2 years or older.")

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So the KHL's Tuesday night broadcast ranked No. 78 for the week on ESPN2, ahead of a mid-afternoon episode of "Dan Le Batard is Highly Questionable." It was the highest rated of the three broadcasts, which isn't too shabby considering the same game was shown hours earlier; wonder if the hype about the Steve and Barry Show helped goose the ratings.

But to answer the question we're all asking:

"Did hockey beat poker?"

Well, no. Poker ranked No. 32 on the weekly ESPN2 ratings. Even Alex Ovechkin can't overcome fat white guys with funny sunglasses bluffing each other.

Overall, that initial KHL rating showed promise. If the lockout continues, it might be enough to have the KHL on ESPN2 a few more times. Provided it includes more Barry Melrose commentary. And by that we mean more references to the Soviet Union-as-current-Russia.

s/t to Son Of The Bronx, our favorite place for cable ratings fun.

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