CHICAGO – They came for the horse but stayed for the hockey.
Saturday night’s Stanley Cup Final contest between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks, broadcast by NBC in the U.S., broke the record for the most-watched Game 2 of the Cup Final in American markets.
The Lightning’s frenetic 4-3 win, which immediately followed American Pharoah’s Triple Crown victory at the Belmont Stakes, delivered a 4.8 metered market rating, according to the network – a five per cent bump from last year’s Rangers-Kings series.
“I don’t know how somebody could leave that rink last night and not be an instant hockey fan if that was your first game,” Tampa coach Jon Cooper said Sunday. “I know we are in the entertainment business a little bit, but I don’t really put any stock in that. I think we’re in the winning business. Ultimately any fan will tell you, I think winning’s the greatest entertainment.”
So a franchise with a rich championship tradition lured plenty of Blackhawks fans to Amalie Arena and their TV sets, and a team whose fan base has swelled by watching a young, fun winner spilled outside of the rink to watch on a big screen.
“Last night you saw it go both ways, especially in the second period, a lot of scoring,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “Probably some entertaining hockey to watch.”
Game 2 registered a 22.6 rating in Chicago and a 15.1 in Tampa. NBC was the No. 1 network in each city during the game. Buffalo (8.6), Milwaukee (6.7) and Ft. Myers (6.5) were the other U.S. markets tuned in at high rates.
Wednesday’s Game 1 also posted impressive numbers. A 4.23 overnight rating in U.S. markets made it the second-most-watched Cup Final opener on NBC, behind only the triple-overtime classic between Chicago and Boston in 2013.