Today is one of the most exciting days of the hockey year for fans, but it also marks a celebration for the NHL itself. The 2010-11 season produced record-breaking business for the league for the fifth straight season, with estimates of about $2.9 billion in revenue by the end of the 2011 playoffs, according to the NHL’s press release.
There are plenty of reasons why the league keeps humming along at the bank. The 2011 Winter Classic was a slam dunk, with the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins captivating audiences even after a rain delay pushed the game into primetime. The 2011 NHL All-Star Game was a also a smash hit compared to previous years, thanks in some part to the ingenious fantasy draft.
Naturally, there were other big sponsorship deals, with the most notable moment coming with the league’s seven-year contract with Molson Coors. That mammoth contract is worth about $375 million during the span of those seven years.
It seems like the NHL achieved increases in almost every category, from sponsorships to TV ratings to merchandise and online categories. To get the lowdown regarding all the details, click here.
Each week at ProHockeyTalk we’ll have NBC on NHL’s Mike Milbury answers your questions on Ask The Expert to put you at ease with what you’re wondering about what’s going on in the NHL.
This week, Mike sits down with Tiffany Simons and answers your questions about the Philadelphia Flyers and whether or not he thinks they can win the Stanley Cup this year. Mike also tackles questions about whether the Winter Classic should have more than one game per season and more of his thoughts on hits to the head.
On a day that’s usually left off for the Super Bowl to take all the sports headlines, NBC’s Game of the Week will have a super clash of their own as the combatants from this year’s Winter Classic face off once again. On February 6 at 12:30 p.m. ET it’ll be the Pittsburgh Penguins squaring off with the Washington Capitals from Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
When these two met up last on the outdoor rink at Heniz Field, the Capitals were able to spoil the evening for the hometown Penguins coming away with a 3-1 win thanks to the efforts of unheralded forward Eric Fehr. In that game we also saw Pens captain Sidney Crosby get dinged up thanks to a collision with Capitals forward David Steckel. Will payback be on the mind of the Penguins as they square off with their heated rivals? Perhaps so, but at the least, we’ll see another intense game between these two top Eastern Conference squads.
The Capitals are led by captain Alex Ovechkin while the Penguins will hope to have their captain Sidney Crosby back on the ice in time to try and spoil the afternoon on Ovechkin’s home turf. It’s only fitting that two of the NHL’s most popular teams get to face each other on Super Sunday and give the NBC national audience a chance to revisit these two just a month after their epic showdown in front of 68,000-plus fans in Pittsburgh.
Doc Emrick, Ed Olczyk, Mike Milbury, and Pierre McGuire will all be on hand to bring you the action at 12:30 p.m. on NBC. With how these two teams are continuing to go through their own ups and downs in terms of success and injuries, the table is set for yet another dramatic reunion between these teams.
Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin wasn’t kidding when he said how exciting it was to play in front of millions of hockey fans.
Over the last four years, the Winter Classic proved that it could work in baseball parks such as Wrigley Field and football stadiums such as Heinz Field. Due to some rain-based intervention, Saturday’s event was delayed from the afternoon to prime time. Instead of seeing ratings that plummeted because of this unplanned alteration, Saturday’s Washington Capitals-Pittsburgh Penguins game instead proved that outdoor hockey can be a ratings success in that coveted time slot.
The 2011 Winter Classic had 4.5 million viewers, the highest number to date for the annual event. The number beat out the 4.4 million viewers the 2009 Winter Classic from Chicago’s Wrigley Field had and was up 22% from the 2010 Winter Classic in Boston. The game was also the most watched regular season game in 36 years.
Maybe it was the high-end star power that comes with featuring Sidney Crosby and Ovechkin. Perhaps it had a lot to do with the amazing buildup created by various promotions including HBO’s outstanding 24/7 series. Then again, it could also have been the natural progression of the league’s progress combined with the improving Winter Classic brand.
Whatever the case may be, the ratings were fantastic for the Winter Classic.
As for how the game did around the country, obviously Pittsburgh and Washington tuned in in big ways, but other cities across the country also tuned in in big ways. Here’s the top 10 cities in ratings and shares for this year’s event in Pittsburgh.
1. Pittsburgh, 32.0/46
2. Washington D.C., 7.6/13
3. Baltimore, 6.6/11
4. Buffalo, 5.3/8
T5. St. Louis, 4.3/7
T5. Denver, 4.3/7
7. Boston, 4.0/7
8. Richmond, 3.8/6
9. Philadelphia, 3.5/6
10. Columbus, 3.4/6
Getting such a huge rating out of Pittsburgh is incredible. While it dwarfs the numbers seen out of Washington, D.C. keep in mind that Maryland and Virginia are also Caps country which is why you see Baltimore third and Richmond eighth on this list. All around, the success of this year’s event is tremendous. With over 68,000 fans at Heinz Field and the TV ratings and viewership being at new highs it’s clear that the NHL has a winning product on its hands.
A lot of people get offended or irritated by the attention heaped upon Washington Capitals sniper Alex Ovechkin and Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby. It’s understandable in a way because the NHL is jam-packed with fantastic players, so focusing on two players seems unfair.
That being said, if you had to choose two players to spotlight, how could you not tab Ovechkin and Crosby? They consistently find themselves in highlight reels and league leader lists, not to mention that – Capitals playoff disappointments notwithstanding – they both play for very successful teams.
Maybe one is a little unkempt and the other might be a little boring, but when you put them together you get a little bit of everything.
So complain and criticize if you might, but it only makes sense to fix a camera on both of them during most games, especially an event like the 2011 Winter Classic. If you really cannot stand them that much then we understand. Click on another story. Yet if you want to monitor how their games really went, check out the individual star cam videos for both stars.
First, we’ll star with Ovechkin because his team won.
OK, now let’s take a look at Crosby’s clips.