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  • Writer's pictureMatt Cundill

NHL hockey isn't all it's cracked up to be - yet.

Updated: Dec 11, 2019

Matt Cundill TV

TSN put out a press release declaring that they had the most watched January in the last five years; with none of it actually being NHL hockey.

The proverbial sports bloggers like Awful Announcing ran stories with an undertone of surprise.

While hockey has long been the holy grail of sports during our Canadian winters, the NHL product is riddled with holes.

Quoting directly from the Press Release, here are the highlights:

World Juniors

  • TSN and RDS combined to average 7.1 million for the Gold Medal Game, ranking as the most-watched telecast ever on Specialty TV

  • Team Canada’s seven games averaged 3.2 million – the highest ever for a World Juniors tournament and the first time every Team Canada game attracted an average audience of 2 million in tournament history

Pinty’s All-Star Curling Skins Game

  • TSN’s annual curling skins game earned an average audience of 461,000 – the highest ever for the event

  • Audiences were up 40% compared to last year

  • The Team Jones vs. Team Carey semifinal and the women’s and men’s finals became the only TSN skins game telecasts to ever achieve average audiences over 500,000

College Football Playoff

  • The three matchups from the highly-anticipated debut of the COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF averaged 564,000 viewers

  • The ROSE BOWL on TSN drew a record average audience of 698,000, ranking as the most-watched U.S. College Football game ever, up 11% over the previous record set in 2010

Australian Open

  • The average audience for the 2015 AUSTRALIAN OPEN on TSN was up 24% over last year

  • Genie Bouchard’s quarter-final match vs. Maria Sharapova ranked as the most-watched AUSTRALIAN OPEN quarter-final broadcast ever for TSN

NFL Playoffs

  • TSN’s average audience for the AFC Divisional playoff between Indianapolis and Denver averaged 991,000 viewers on TSN, up 10% over last year’s AFC game


  • TSN’s primetime edition of SPORTSCENTRE earned an average audience of 201,000, up 59% over last year

  • TSN’s evening edition of SPORTSCENTRE earned an average audience of 172,000, up 8% over last year

For the sake of comparison, here are the top 10 watched sports shows from last week that appeared in a post on Yahoo. (source: Numeris)

1. NHL, Leafs-Habs/Jets-Wings, Saturday, CBC: 2,600,000 2. NHL, Canucks-Flames/Caps-Kings, Saturday, CBC: 975,000 3. NHL, Hockey Night In Canada pre-game, Saturday, CBC-Rogers: 712,000 4. Curling, Scotties draw 4, Sunday, TSN: 609,000 5. Curling, Scotties opening draw, Saturday, TSN: 516,000 6. Curling, Scotties draw 2, Saturday, TSN: 490,000 7. NHL, Oilers at Senators, Saturday, CBC-Sportsnet: 454,000 8. Curling, Scotties draw 3, Sunday, TSN: 448,000 9. NHL, Bruins at Canucks, Friday, Sportsnet Pacific: 402,000 10. NBA, All-star Game, Sunday, TSN: 373,000

Here are the biggest takeaways after analyzing and over analyzing all these numbers:

If there's something at stake, people will watch it. College Football finally got it right and created a Bowl Series so more people would watch.

Hockey is really boring until after the Super Bowl: There have been a few Globe and Mail articles like this one and this one that have basically dumped all over Rogers for their hockey broadcasts. And yes, there's something about the presentation of these games that leaves it feeling marginal or unimportant. There's also so many more games on TV, the need to watch is reduced. The ongoing problem over the years is that prior to the Super Bowl, the games aren't important. Only the Leafs, Oilers, and Sabres are truly out and have started a new race called the "Connor McDavid" race to the bottom. Chances are good your team isn't out of it yet and the games mean just a little bit more now. If the NHL were smart, they would do away with this idea that "some games are more valuable than others" when teams tie. They should look at making it 3 points for a win, 2 for an OT/SO win, 1 for an OT/SO loss. Why tying a hockey game increases the value of the game 50% is beyond me.

Numbers are up because it's tough to PVR Sports: There are a few television events that can't wait.

Sports Centre is up because it's actually on now: No longer does it find itself pre-empted or pushed around. It is now living up to its name in the literal sense by being the centre of all things sports. Last night when the Duke-UNC game was about to go into overtime, in came the 15 year old who immediately went fishing for hockey highlights.

TSN is not unlike ESPN in the states: If it's on TSN, it must be important. The fact that a number of hockey games are no longer on TSN and being broadcast elsewhere leaves the end product feeling secondary. It takes time for people to get used to it.

The World Junior Hockey Tourney is still massive: Seven million people? Was there something at stake? Yes... and that's why people watch.


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