If there was any doubt if hockey fans would return to support the greatest game on earth following the third lockout in the last twenty years, that question has been answered. And it’s an overwhelming “YES.”
From coast to coast in Canada, to a record number of viewers who tuned in to NBC, the NHL opened the 2013 shortened season with a bang and they owe it all to the fans.
According to Puck Daddy, NBC is reporting an overnight rating of 2.0, the highest such rating for a regular-season game since the network took over the NHL broadcasts in 2005 (excluding the Winter Classics).
Local markets such as Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Chicago are also reporting record numbers for a regular-season game and even LA pulled record numbers for an area that is said to be a non-hockey market.
The Buffalo Sabres have reportedly sold more than $2 million in merchandise in the last week, granted it was 50% as a way to thank the fans for their support and apologize for the lockout.
The Winnipeg Jets did their fans and sold crowd a favor and cut beer prices in half for their opener. The Phoenix Coyotes and Minnesota wild were just one of many buildings that were sold out for their respective home openers.
These are just a few of the ways that teams have tried to get their fans to return to the game that we nearly lost for an entire season and so far the fans appear willing to forgive. While they may not forget, at least for now, the game of hockey is again resonating with it’s fans.
Numbers from the struggling markets of Tampa Bay and the Florida Panthers haven’t been reported so the hype is certainly geographic specific. You can make the simple correlation that the record numbers came from markets where hockey is already booming, prior to the lockout.
The Penguins and Flyers hate each other, as do their fans. And what better way to start the season by the battle of Pennsylvania. The Blackhawks have always been a fan favorite in the windy city and with a club that is expected to compete for the Stanley Cup, record numbers should only be expected.
The Los Angeles numbers is surprising though. Here’s a market that is dominated by basketball, football and baseball along with every other hobby and outdoor opportunity one can think of instead of going to the rink. Yet, the Kings appear to have won over the casual fans in the LA market, thanks to their Cup run last year and massive celebration that followed.
It was reported last week that the ticket to the Kings home opener to watch the Stanley Cup banner being raised, was harder to acquire than a ticket to game six of the finals last season when they won it all. Who says winning doesn’t cure everything?
So as the work week progresses along and we have the fortune of returning home every night to turn on a good, old hockey game, let us pat ourselves on the back as fans; as it’s us that have made the return of the game so triumphant. But we already knew that the game would be nothing without us.