Web site hits, TV ratings, general sales up across the board for 2010 playoffs

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While it’s probably a long-shot for the NHL to ever leapfrog the NBA for more than a few scattered evenings, that shouldn’t overshadow the fact that hockey is on a hot streak. Naturally, the fantastic Vancouver Olympics were a huge draw but the playoffs and Winter Classic also made a huge impact.

NHL.com features an article that shows how big of a jump hockey saw in just about every category. From Web site hits to merchandise/ticket sales to TV ratings, the league saw a healthy increase. Here are a few highlighted facts from the post.

First, let’s take a look at a few tidbits regarding NBC’ coverage.

Game 6 of the Final on NBC was the most-watched (8.28 million) and highest-rated NHL game (4.7) on U.S. television in 36 years.
NBC Sports broadcast four of the series’ six games (1-2, 5-6). Those four games averaged 6.1 million viewers, the best on network TV in 13 years.
NBC Sports’ coverage of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final earned the best overnight rating (4.1 rating and 7 share) for a Game 2 on record (NHL overnight data prior to 1975 is unavailable).

Not bad. CBC, Versus and regional networks saw some nice jumps as well. TSN saw a staggering 70 percent increase in average audience. NHL.com reports that total merchandise sales were up 22 percent from 2009 to 2010. To give one Internet example, NHL.com stated that its own site saw an insane 161 percent increase in video “starts” and 56 percent jump in page views.

The great news is that, while the league might not always be lucky enough to get a big market match like Chicago and Philadelphia every year, hockey is making its way back into the collective sports consciousness. The NHL just needs to make sure that it is aware of what is bringing it back into vogue; that is, allowing its stars to shine and giving them a platform to do so.

Add Lecavalier to list of expensive Flyers healthy scratches

Vincent Lecavalier
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Are the Philadelphia Flyers aiming for some sort of record when it comes to expensive (potential) healthy scratches?

While lineups are obviously subject to change, CSNPhilly.com notes that Vincent Lecavalier appears to be among a rather rich group of Flyers who are expected to sit during their season-opener.

Also likely to be in street clothes: Sam Gagner and Luke Schenn.

That’s $11.3 million in cap space rotting on the bench, and that’s only counting what the Flyers are paying Gagner.

“I really don’t know what to say,” Lecavalier said. “I’ll practice hard and be ready when they call me up.”

The CSNPhilly.com quotes from Lecavalier, Gagner and Schenn only get sadder from there, a reminder that there are human beings attached to these numbers – whether you focus on disappointing stats or bloated salaries.

Flyers fans with the urge to reach for an Alka-Setzler can at least take some comfort in knowing that the team will see $6.8 million in savings after this season, as both Gagner and Schenn are on expiring deals.

It could be a long season, though, and this Lecavalier headache may not truly end until his contract expires following the 2017-18 campaign.

Video: NHL drops hammer, suspends Torres for 41 games


One of the NHL’s most notorious hitters has been tagged by the league.

On Monday, the Department of Player Safety announced that San Jose forward Raffi Torres has been suspended 41 games — half of the regular season — for an illegal check to the head of Anaheim’s Jakob Silfverberg.

The length of Torres’ suspension is a combination of the Silfverberg hit and Torres’ history of delivering hits to the heads of opposing players, including Jordan Eberle, Jarret Stoll, Nate Prosser and Marian Hossa.

“Torres has repeatedly violated league playing rules,” the Department of Player Safety explained. “And has been sanctioned multiple times for similar infractions.”

The league also noted that Torres has been warned, fined, or suspended on nine occasions over the course of his career, “the majority of which have involved a hit to an opponent’s head.”

“Same player every year,” Ducks forward Ryan Kesler said following the hit on Silfverberg. “I played with the guy [in Vancouver]. He needs to learn how to hit. That has no part in our game anymore.”

As for what lies ahead, things could get interesting upon potential appeal:

Torres successfully appealed a suspension under the previous CBA, getting his punishment for the Hossa hit reduced from 25 to 21 games.

Under terms of the new CBA, Torres isn’t categorized as a repeat offender because his last suspension came in May of 2013 — more than two years ago.

Of course, part of the reason Torres hasn’t run afoul of the league in two years is because he’s barely played.

Knee injuries limited Torres to just 12 games in ’13-14, and he sat out last season entirely.