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Volume 21 No. 1
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Sabres lead way in NHL local ratings, but some strong markets see declines

NHL teams' RSN ratings

Highest rating

Team Network 2016-17 avg. household rating (change from 2015-16)
Buffalo Sabres MSG 6.22 (-5%)
Pittsburgh Penguins Root Sports 5.95 (+1%)
Minnesota Wild FS North 4.40 (+35%)
St. Louis Blues FS Midwest 4.15 (+12%)
Chicago Blackhawks CSN Chicago 3.34 (-16%)

Lowest rating

Team Network 2016-17 avg. household rating (change from 2015-16)
New Jersey Devils MSG+ 0.39 (+30%)
Dallas Stars FS Southwest 0.38 (-42%)
New York Islanders MSG+ 0.32 (-26%)
Florida Panthers FS Florida 0.28 (+12%)
Anaheim Ducks Prime Ticket 0.22 (-50%)

Biggest gain

Team Network Change (rating)
Columbus Blue Jackets FS Ohio +118% (2.09)
Minnesota Wild FS North +35% (4.40)
New Jersey Devils MSG+ +30% (0.39)
Washington Capitals CSN Mid-Atlantic +14% (1.29)
Florida Panthers FS Florida +12% (0.28)
St. Louis Blues FS Midwest +12% (4.15)

Biggest decline

Team Network Change (rating)
New York Islanders MSG+ -26% (0.32)
Detroit Red Wings FS Detroit -36% (2.07)
Dallas Stars FS Southwest -42% (0.38)
Anaheim Ducks Prime Ticket -50% (0.22)
Colorado Avalanche Altitude -64% (0.6)

Note: Data for the Nashville Predators, Carolina Hurricanes and the seven Canadian clubs was not available.

The Buffalo Sabres continued their run as the top-rated U.S.-based NHL team this year, posting the league’s highest RSN rating for a second consecutive season.

Last season, the Sabres ended the Pittsburgh Penguins’ six-year reign atop the local TV ratings chart. This season, the Sabres beat the Penguins in local ratings again. Sabres games on MSG posted a 6.22 rating, down 5 percent from last year. Penguins games on Root Sports finished second, averaging a 5.95 rating.

SportsBusiness Journal analyzed ratings data from 21 of the NHL’s 23 U.S.-based clubs; information on Carolina and Nashville was not available. Ratings also were not available for the league’s seven Canadian teams. Overall, 10 of the 21 U.S.-based teams monitored posted ratings increases from last season; 11 teams saw a decline.

The NHL’s local numbers stand in stark contrast to national TV ratings, which saw steep drops this season. NHL games on NBC posted their lowest viewership numbers on record. The 15 NHL games on NBC averaged 1.23 million viewers, down 20 percent. NHL games on NBCSN posted the NHL’s lowest cable viewership numbers since 2011-12. Its 91 games averaged 336,000 viewers, down 11 percent.

The best story is in Columbus, where the Blue Jackets on FS Ohio more than doubled their local TV rating, thanks largely to a 16-game winning streak and the highest point total in the team’s history. The Blue Jackets, who made the playoffs for the third time in their 17 seasons, saw average household ratings increase 118 percent to 2.09, the team’s best rating in at least 11 years.

The Minnesota Wild, who finished with their highest point total ever, saw an increase of 35 percent and the league’s third-highest local rating, with a 4.4.

But some of the NHL’s strongest U.S. markets posted ratings declines. The Boston Bruins (down 9 percent on NESN) and Chicago Blackhawks (down 16 percent on CSN Chicago) saw ratings drop for the fourth straight year. Detroit Red Wings games on FS Detroit dropped 36 percent to 2.07, the lowest for the club in the past 11 years of data compiled by SportsBusiness Journal.

The Colorado Avalanche, which finished with the league’s worst record, saw a decline of 64 percent compared to last year, and the team’s lowest rating since at least the 2005-06 season.

Research Director David Broughton contributed to this report.