Sunday, July 31, 2016

How the Chicago Blackhawks Saved the NHL

When Sports Illustrated put on the Chicago Blackhawks on the cover, after the lock-out of 2013, claiming they brought hockey back, one had to pause on that motion. I, for one, was a little skeptical that the Blackhawks could save the NHL. Though three years after the lock-out the ratings don't lie, the Blackhawks are running the show, and Chicago is loving it.

The NHL has enjoyed higher viewership when the Chicago Blackhawks have been in the Stanley Cup finals. Five of the ten most watched Stanley Cup Finals games have featured the Blackhawks. This includes the top rated Stanley Cup Finals game, Montreal vs. Chicago, from 1971.

Outside of the Boston -Vancouver series of 2011, in game clinching Stanley Cup Finals games, the NHL has struggled to get a rating above 7. In the years, that the Chicago Blackhawks have been in the finals ('10, '13, '15), the rating in similar games has not been below 8. What this means to the bottom-line is that, on average, one million more people are watching the Blackhawks' Finals compared to the rest.
Toews vs. Crosby

Not even Sidney Crosby can pull better rating than the Blackhawks. The 2016 Stanley Cup Finals lost out to the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals in every game except one. The clinching Game 6 rating for 2015 was 8.0, and the rating for 2016 was 5.4. That means that more than 2.5 million more people watched the Blackhawks get the Cup, then the Chosen One get his second cup in 2016.

The nay-sayers will tell you that the NBA Finals brought down the Stanley Cup Finals ratings in 2016. They won't tell you that the same teams played in the NBA Finals both years (2015 and 2016). Personally, I think the hockey fans chose not to watch because they did not want to see the Penguins win the cup.
Stanley Cup Rally Chicago

It has not always been this way though. When the Chicago Blackhawks were not as good in the early 2000's, their attendance was near the bottom of the league. As the Blackhawks struggled, so did the ratings for the NHL. During the early 2000s, the Stanley Cup Finals struggled to get ratings better than 4.

Things began to turn around in 2008-2009, the Blackhawks were getting better and the league decided to push all their chips behind Crosby. The Stanley Cup clincher rating finally got 8 million viewers in 2009 with the Pens - Red Wings Final. They were topped the very next year though with 8.3 million viewers in the game clincher between the Blackhawks - Flyers. Crosby was no match for the machine that was the Chicago Blackhawks.
Taking Over Soldier Field

So why does this happen? Chicago is a sports town. The people love their teams especially the Cubs. Chicagoans show up for Cubs games even when they are terrible. Other big cities like New York and LA have their teams but the support is not always there. Example, the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals (Rangers vs. Kings) game clincher only drew six million views. This was two million less viewers than the 2015 and 2013 game clinchers. The numbers don't lie, Chicagoans show up and the rest find something else to do.

It doesn't stop there, this fall for the 2016-17 season, the Blackhawks will be featured in 21 nationally televised games which leads the league. They will play in their third Winter Classic, which also leads the league. The Chicago Blackhawks drive the ratings right now in the NHL. It is safe to say that a team led by Captain Serious and that kid from Buffalo, NY did save the NHL.

Stanley Cup Finals Ratings

2015-2016 NHL Attendance

Chicago Blackhawks Yearly Attendance

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