The first few games are in the books for the 2019-20 NHL season and the early returns are strong. National broadcast ratings were up, attendance numbers were strong, and there were a few announcements to boot.
Wednesday’s opening night coverage on NBC Sports posted huge ratings. NBC’s national broadcast was a double-header with the Stanley Cup-winning St. Louis Blues hosting the Washington Capitals in Game 1, followed by the Vegas Golden Knights hosting the San Jose Sharks in Game 2.
According to NBC Sports, the Blues-Capitals game delivered .56 overnight ratings, up eight percent from last year when the Capitals hosted the Boston Bruins. With St.Louis celebrating its Stanley Cup victory, the local market tuned in with an 8.8 local rating, the highest-rated regular-season game on NBCSN in the history of the market. St. Louis was the No. 1 market overall. Washington posted a 1.9 local rating.
The second game, Sharks-Golden Knights, averaged a .32, which was a 14 percent improvement from last year’s Sharks-Ducks game. Las Vegas averaged a 7.1 local rating, the No. 1 market for the game and the second-highest rated Knights regular-season game in the market’s history.
NHL TV Ratings Open Solid
As a whole, the Opening Night was a slam dunk for the NHL who is in the final year of their national broadcasting rights deal with NBC. The weighted average between the two games was a .46, which is a 12 percent growth from the previous year.
In terms of competition, both games had to compete with the AL Wild Card game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Oakland Athletics. That game was on ESPN (Traditional Broadcast) and ESPN 2 (Statcast) and combined to do an overnight 3.6 rating. Both teams aren’t exactly national draws and recorded the second-lowest Wild Card game since the Arizona Diamondbacks – Colorado Rockies game in 2017.
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The AL Wild Card game did earn the top spot amongst cable broadcasts on Wednesday night while the Blues-Capitals game came in 13th amongst programs in the primetime window.
First Games Attendance Strong
Having good attendance numbers in the first games of the season isn’t exactly mind-blowing. It is an expected outcome for a league like the NHL at this point. But the first few games from Wednesday night did post rather solid attendance statistics.
With four games on Wednesday night, the average attendance was 18,661, technically over capacity for the venues with a 102 percent capacity rating. The Toronto Maple Leafs led all four venues in attendance drawing 19,612 fans.
- Toronto: 19,612
- Las Vegas: 18,588
- Edmonton: 18,347
- St. Louis: 18,096
The Blues, who were celebrating their Stanley Cup victory, posted great television ratings but had the lowest capacity rating at 94 percent and also drew the least amount of fans out of the four home teams.
Boston Bruins Tap New Anthem Singer
On Thursday, the Boston Bruins officially announced that their new anthem singer for home games would be Todd Angilly. Angilly, 44 years old, hails from Warick, Rhode Island and performed the national anthem at 16 regular-season games and all the Bruins home playoff games last season.
Angilly is the first official Bruins anthem singer since Rene Rancourt retired at the end of the 2017-18 season. He was selected out of a group of 600 applicants and has sung the national anthem at essentially every pro venue in or around the City of Boston.
Angilly’s story is a rather interesting one. By day he is a probation officer and at night he has served as a bartender at TD Garden for Boston Celtics and Bruins games. His story was told by many media outlets last season because before the anthem he would prep the bar, race down and perform, and then head right back up to level 5 to serve patrons. Despite now being tapped as the team’s official anthem singer, the plan for now for Angilly is to continue pulling double-duty going forward.
Tanner covers the business of hockey of The Hockey Writers in addition to running his own New England sports website, Trifecta Sports.