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Volume 27 No. 30
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NHL Winter Classic Draws Its Best NBC Viewership Since '15

Bruins-Blackhawks was also up 21% from the Rangers-Sabres matchup last year
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

NBC drew a total audience delivery of 2.97 million viewers for Bruins-Blackhawks on Tuesday afternoon, marking the best Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic audience since ’15. The annual outdoor game had seen record-low figures for each game from ’16-18. Bruins-Blackhawks is up 21% from Rangers-Sabres last year and also marks the best figure for any NHL regular-season game since that Blackhawks-Capitals Winter Classic in ’15. NBC Sports Digital also had an average minute audience of 22,454 viewers, up 45% from last year’s game (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). In Boston, Conor Ryan wrote the NHL "has to be pleased" with the '19 Winter Classic, as it was "one of the more entertaining games in recent memory." The Winter Classic "will likely never hit the level it reached during the first few years of its operation," but the TV audience "seems to be on pace for a slight rebound" (BOSTONSPORTSJOURNAL.com, 1/2).

NHL WINTER CLASSIC AUDIENCE TREND ON NBC
YEAR
MATCHUP
VENUE
START (ET)
VIEWERS (000)
'19
Bruins-Blackhawks
Notre Dame Stadium
1:00pm
2,968
'18
Rangers-Sabres
Citi Field
1:00pm
2,429
'17
Blackhawks-Blues*
Busch Stadium
1:00pm
2,557
'16
Canadiens-Bruins
Gillette Stadium
1:00pm
2,775
'15
Blackhawks-Capitals
Nationals Park
1:00pm
3,472
'14
Maple Leafs-Red Wings
Michigan Stadium
1:00pm
4,404
'13
No game due to lockout
'12
Rangers-Flyers*
Citizens Bank Park
1:00pm
3,733
'11
Capitals-Penguins
Heinz Field
8:00pm
4,525
'10
Flyers-Bruins
Fenway Park
1:00pm
3,684
'09
Red Wings-Blackhawks
Wrigley Field
1:00pm
4,401
'08
Penguins-Sabres
Ralph Wilson Stadium
1:00pm
3,751
NOTE: * = Played Jan. 2 to avoid NFL conflict.
Download the
Winter Classic audience trend

IMPROVEMENTS NEEDED: THE COMEBACK's David Rogers wrote "something is missing" with the Winter Classic, as it used to be a "must-see event." The event originally "felt like something special and unique," but the "increase in outdoor games, the repeated use of the same teams and a lack of innovation has watered down the Winter Classic experience." The NHL should "feature different teams as soon as possible." Through 11 Winter Classic games, eight teams have "participated two or more times." Additionally, the league could "bring the game outside in some of the most unique locations in North America." The NHL and NBC also should "innovate," because the broadcast "doesn’t do enough to go outside the box." Finally, the NHL should "cut the Stadium Series" (THECOMEBACK.com, 1/2).

AIM HIGH: In Colorado Springs, Paul Klee notes the Avalanche will play a '20 NHL Stadium Series game at Air Force's Falcon Stadium, which "holds around 46,000" for football, and organizers are "hoping to push 50,000" for hockey. Everything about Bruins-Blackhawks at Notre Dame Stadium -- from the "visuals on TV to the hockey itself was awesome." The Avalanche in '16 played the Red Wings "under the lights at Coors Field." Klee: "Unforgettable, one of the coolest events I’ve witnessed." Avalanche LW Gabriel Landeskog said of outdoor games, “I wish we had one every year, to be honest with you. The last one was a blast” (Colorado Springs GAZETTE, 1/3).

SITE-SEEING: SPORTSNET.ca's Elliotte Friedman wrote he likes the NHL "trying different outdoor locations." The '19 Heritage Classic will feature Jets-Flames at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan, which "will be terrific." The Stars will host the '20 Winter Classic at the Cotton Bowl, a "bit more of a gamble." The Avalanche will "likely" get the Kings for their game at Air Force, and Friedman wrote, "I’m intrigued by the league waiting to see who the opponent will be." If the NHL "goes to West Point -- which would complete the military trifecta" -- Golden Knights Owner Bill Foley’s Army history "might mean" his team goes there (SPORTSNET.ca, 1/2).