I'm no television ratings expert, but NBC's preliminary numbers from last night strike me as incredible, perhaps the best ever for a nationally televised NHL game in the U.S.
Here's ratings guru Mark Berman:
NBC reigned supreme on this second Friday in June, with the seventh (and final) game of The Stanley Cup Finals at an above-average 7.51 million viewers and a 3.0 rating/11 share from 8-11 p.m. in primetime. Personally, I have no recollection of a hockey game ever rating this high.
Neither do I. I've long heard (and believed) that Game 7 of the 1994 finals between the Rangers-Canucks was the top rated NHL game of all-time in the U.S., but I don't recall it being that high. That series was broadcast on two networks in the U.S. so the numbers were split, but if anyone has more information on that total, it'd certainly be relevant.
TV by the Numbers' Bill Gorman has a look at the average U.S. ratings for the finals dating back to 1995, but keep in mind that's for the total series. What I haven't yet seen is the highest individual game total.
A quick look at the ratings for each game this season indicates the average was about 4.8 per game, a number that's dropped down due to low ratings for Game 3 and 4 on Versus:
Here's Steve Lepore from Puck The Media on the Game 7 totals:
...the NHL brass will look at this as one of those watershed moments for hockey, where more people have watched a game than in years. When the CBC numbers get added in, it is likely the game will cross the 10 million mark, making it the first hockey game since the 2002 Gold Medal Match between the U.S. and Canada to do so.
We'll have to wait to see the final numbers, but early indications are they'll be big news when they're released.