Despite a thrilling, come from behind 3-2 victory for the New York Rangers, their Winter Classic in Citizens Bank Park against the Philadelphia Flyers drew the lowest ratings in the five year history of the game, coming in with an overnight mark of 2.4. The main culprit can be one of a few reasons.
Firstly, the game wasn’t on its traditional New Year’s Day timeslot, and instead took place on the 2nd of January. The reason for that has more to do with the dominance of the NFL, which also forced the NCAA to shift its traditional New Year’s Day bowl games to the 2nd as opposed to the 1st. Secondly, the time slot for the game was pushed back from 1 PM to 3 PM, due to more favorable weather conditions. You really can’t use that as an excuse though, due to last year’s game at Heinz Field between the Penguins and Capitals being shifted back because of rain earlier in the day. Then again, maybe Mike Milbury quickly turned off viewers with this quote.
The competitive nature of the Outback Bowl probably had something to do with the low ratings the game got. Michigan State, down 16-0 at the half, began a furious comeback in the third quarter, right around the time the game was starting. Our football-crazed society probably had more interest in a tight football game between a pair of top 25 teams than a midseason hockey game between two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. I’m not saying that watching the football game was the *correct* choice (because let’s be honest, there really isn’t a correct choice in a matter of opinion like this), but hockey takes a backseat to football. ESPN doesn’t give the sport all that much airtime anymore, which greatly angers hockey fans, and because of that I’m wondering how many casual fans even knew that the Winter Classic was going on yesterday.
The game itself was very entertaining, with the Flyers blowing a two goal lead in the final 25 minutes of the game, and then having star center Danny Briere get stonewalled by Henrik Lundqvist on a penalty shot with 20 seconds remaining that would have tied the game. Many hockey fans are speculating about the refereeing in the game, with even Rangers head coach John Tortorella calling the officiating “disgusting.” If more eyeballs tuned into the game and saw the horrid officiating, maybe the NHL would actually do something about it. Or maybe they’d just ignore it, and alienate more fans in the process. I’d bet on the latter, personally.