CBC Draws 2.4 Million For All-Star Game, Up From 2009, While Even More Tune Into Skills Competition

(Toronto) – Both Sunday night’s NHL All-Star Game and Saturday’s NHL Super Skills Competition were record-setting ratings smashes for CBC’S HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA, according to BBM overnight data.

The 2011 All Star Game on CBC’S HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA drew an average audience of 2.389 million viewers, a huge 56 per cent increase over viewership of the last NHL All-Star Game played in 2009 in Montreal, when 1.527 million tuned in (there was no game last year due to the 2010 Winter Olympics).

“This is a testament to Canada’s passion for NHL hockey and the comprehensive coverage on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada,” said David Masse, Senior Director, CBC Sports. “Our goal is to always provide the very best in live sports coverage and these record numbers signify that we’re accomplishing that and viewers are responding.”

This year’s unique format pitting Team Staal versus Team Lidstrom resulted in an exciting finish with the perennial all-star Detroit defenceman pulling out an 11-10 victory. That close game lead to a viewing audience peaked of 3.35 million at 6:55 p.m. ET with Team Staal pressing for the tie.

This marks the highest rating in 13 years for an NHL All-Star Game on CBC’S HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANDA, and obliterated the previous high of 1.67 million viewers at the 1999 All-Star Game.

The weekend long broadcast got off to a flying start with 864,000 Canadians tuning into Scotiabank Hockey Tonight pre-game show with host Ron MacLean.

The NHL Super Skills Competition followed and was also a record-setter, drawing an audience of 2.446 million and peaking at over three million at two different points during the broadcast. The average audience was 78 per cent higher than the previous high of the 1.371 million that tuned in to the last Skills Competition, held in Montreal in 2009.


Your Announcers and Open Thread For the AHL All-Star Classic

AHL All-Star Classic, 7:00 PM ET
National TV (Canada):
TV (US):
For a list of stations, click here
Webcast: AHLLive.com
Play-by-play: Mike Emrick
Color: Craig Laughlin
Reporter: John Walton

TSN Draws an Absurd 1.5 Million Viewers For the Fantasy Draft

Let it never be questioned how much Canadian’s love some of hockey’s biggest events, as they tuned in en masse to see the first ever NHL All-Star Fantasy Daft.

The Friday night primetime broadcast averaged 1.5 million viewers from 8:00-9:30PM ET. Considering the network is averaging only 864,000 viewers per game during the regular season, these numbers have to be beyond even the network’s most optimistic expectations.

To put that into perspective, Hockey Night in Canada is averaging 1.5 million viewers to date this season for regular season games, with only 1.0 million for the late (10:00 PM ET) game. The game will likely come close to the audience drawn by the actual All-Star Game.

Will Major League Baseball Go Head-to-Head with the Stanley Cup Final

The NHL often gets made fun of by mainstream sports fans and columnists for their miniscule regular season television ratings, but were currently in an era that has seen the Stanley Cup Final pull itself up to ratings respectability, at worst. Besides, hockey’s far from the only sport in ratings trouble. Major League Baseball has seen their ratings fall to a near NHL On NBC level over the past few years, and that’s with FOX airing 3-4 regional telecasts per week vs. NBC’s lone game.

FOX and baseball are trying to combat this by sneaking some juice (not like that) into the once legendary Game of the Week franchise by airing it in primetime a few weeks out of the season. This will happen on FOX May 14, May 21 and May 28. That would be Memorial Day Weekend (also, the weekend of my birthday, shop early!) and typically, in recent years, the weekend that the Stanley Cup Final has begun. Will the two collide?

There are reasons to believe they will and won’t. The last two seasons, NBC has been televising Game 1 of the Final on the Saturday night of Memorial Day Weekend. However, in the first year of that arrangement, they aired games 1 & 2 on back-to-back nights, so it is conceivable that hockey could air games 1 & 2 on the Sunday and Monday nights of Memorial Day Weekend instead of going up against MLB.

Why avoid MLB? Usually I’d say that it is just regular season baseball, that can easily be beaten. Last year’s FOX primetime games drew in the 3-5 million range, which is beatable for the NHL. However, baseball and hockey’s audiences do have some overlap, plus, FOX is loading up on regional games to try and make some ratings headway, by airing a ridiculous six games (Philadelphia/NY Mets, LA Angels/Minnesota, Boston/Detroit, Cincinnati/Atlanta, Kansas City/Texas and St. Louis/Colorado) in different parts of the country in the 7-10PM ET slot.

So, the questions remain, and they’re far off from being answered: Will we see this head-to-head, akin to CBS airing MMA during the Final a few years back? Can the NHL beat out even regular season baseball? I imagine it’ll take awhile to find out, but I don’t know that hockey should necessarily shy away from this, as long as they have another big market Stanley Cup Final.

All-Star Weekend Roundup: Why Making Noise is Better Than Making Memories

Here’s how it’s going to go: I’m going to name a topic, then write the good and the bad about said topic. Let’s recap our All-Star Weekend.

The Fantasy Draft

  • I think a lot of people had high hopes for this event, and I can say that largely, the NHL lived up to them, from my standpoint. This was an entirely good idea that establishes the NHL All-Star weekend as an entire, actual weekend. I had always felt the whole thing felt a little bit slight with no actual events on the Friday. NHL Network was there for a media day, yes, but I couldn’t help but see it as another day without any hockey things to do. Adding this event gave the NHL a tentpole event on a day in which there was none before. Good work.
  • I also liked the sort of “game show” manner in which the whole shebang was presented. James Duthie performed admirably with what was no doubt not the easiest assignment of his career.
  • I think this can be shortened down a little bit, however, and given more of a universal NHL production feel to it. I didn’t like how this was mostly a TSN thing, with only Keith Jones familiar to VERSUS viewers and Pierre McGuire familiar to American fans. I would’ve maybe preferred if Bill Patrick presided over things. It’s high time VERSUS starts doing their own coverage for events like this and the actual NHL Draft.
  • That all said, loved the event, but think it can be shortened down in general. They could’ve finished this in 60 minutes if they needed to. There was no real reason for some of the pointless blather from the talking heads the entire show. Or, for that matter, from NHL Network with regards to any strategy. It’s futile and wastes time.
  • The players are the big winners here, as we made yet another modicum of progress when it comes to showing that the league has a little bit of personality beyond just a few wacky characters. I hope this returns next time around, too. Gretzky vs. Messier? Crosby vs. Ovechkin? Bettman vs. Fehr? Maybe the last one is a joke. You can have celebrities of hockey and Hollywood lore as captains, too. Maybe two goalie captains. I hope the NHL realizes that they may have struck a little gold here.

Skills Competition

  • Here we had a lot of things that were unnecessarily complicated that could have been streamlined to be made better, a few things I felt were out of order, and the old classics such as Fastest Skater and Hardest Shot.
  • VERSUS likes to experiment with different camera angles, and I appreciate the effort, but I feel as if maybe they’d be best at staying at the safe, wide camera angle. Sometimes you flat out missed certain things, either due to the angle or to VERSUS being behind the play.
  • A suggestion for next year: open up the penalty box windows and allow Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk to call the superskills from there. They can wear helmets, I suppose. It’d put them closer to the action and allow them to interact a little less awkwardly with the players.
  • I’d start the Super-Skills with the elimination shootout competition, at the end of the event … it just starts to drag and drag and drag until you just wish it would all end.
  • The intro of the players was purely awesome. Enough said.
  • Also awesome? The Carolina fans excitement, the entire weekend. I’m so happy for all of them, they represented our league so very well. A lot of people were left rethinking Carolina’s status as a non-traditional hockey market, and for very good reason after seeing all the enthusiasm and tail-gaiting.
  • While it’s a fun idea, they need to tweak the “Slam Dunk” style shootout trick shot contest. Marc-Andre Fleury’s antics were funny … but no more NHL goalies in this. Isn’t this how Rick DiPietro started down the road to ruining his body a few years ago? Let’s either use amateurs or a shooter tutor. Better yet, why not use the shooter tutor as an impetus to actually score. Each hole in the false goaltender’s visage would be worth a point value. Then, fans would vote based on pure moves for 10 bonus points to determine the winner. Why not?
  • Eric Staal turned out to be a much more charismatic than I could’ve imagined. While Nicklas Lidstrom was a serviceable captain, I felt Staal was a gracious host who was often very charming and funny throughout the weekend. Good to see a guy like that is Carolina’s most visible hockey star.
  • Also, WOAH YOU GUYS. The Jeff Skinner phenomenon. I had no idea. That’s truly amazing.

All-Star Game

  • Overall, probably still the least entertaining part of the actual All-Star weekend. By the 2nd period, it’s hard to keep caring about this game of shinny. We have to find a way to make the game a little bit more urgent, even if the players aren’t going to hit anyone.
  • The intro with the kids choosing sticks and revealing them to belong to Ron Francis, Rod Brind’Amour, Lidstrom and Staal would be an easy thing to go after, but I felt it had sort of a gooey, cheesy charm to it. In short, it was kind of adorable. I had no problem with it.
  • Cam Ward and Ryan Kesler wore microphones during the game talking to Emrick and Olczyk. They picked the right guys. Ward was downright funny and had some good information to impart, while an eavesdrop onto Kesler’s conversation with a referee led to him revealing that there was $20 out to the first ref to call offsides. Whether true or not, it was still a great little human moment during the game.
  • The Guardian Project was almost as big a mess as Charlie Sheen’s recent behavior. Holy cow, this was a terrible idea. Canadians watching on CBC must’ve been so embarrassed.
  • However, they might’ve been a little more embarrassed at CBC in general this afternoon, as they didn’t join coverage of the All-Star Game until just before it started at around 4:30, because of the end of Curling. I’m like a parent who’s so used to being angry at my wayward child (VERSUS) and all of a sudden the good one gets caught with booze under his bed. I’m just … kind of shocked. You’re supposed to be the good kid! Canadians, how annoyed were you by this?
  • Overall, VERSUS presented things pretty well, and did an okay job of setting up what’s gone on and what’s to come in the 2010-11 NHL season, something the NHL needs to encourage it’s TV partners to do more of at these tentpole events.

NHL Network

  • Falling into the trap of over-analyzing the Fantasy Draft aside …
  • NHL Network, I love you. Never change the ridiculous amount of coverage you give to the league’s signature moments. I had the network on most of the weekend. NHL Net continues to be a must-have haven for the American puckhead.
  • Also, I loved Jeremy Roenick and Kevin Weekes. You know what, if this were NBC’s studio team every week, I wouldn’t get into shouting matches with commenters over my knowledge of TV production. Because while it may not be the most controversial thing on earth, it’d be entertaining, funny and a pleasure to watch, things both were all weekend, along with the entire NHL Net cast. Weeksie and JR deserve more exposure on American TV. Please give it to them.

All said, there was a buzz about the National Hockey League’s mid-season celebration. A genuine one for the first time in years. That’s much more important than the game being a barn-burning classic that we’ll revel in the memories of for decades to come. The fact is, something started here. Something that can be improved on, and something that – maybe, in the future – can lead us towards making this event worthwhile once again.