Expectations were high heading into Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday between the Blackhawks and Bruins. The triple overtime thriller delivered in spades for NBC, drawing a 4.8 overnight rating that is the highest the NHL has seen since 1997's Final between the Red Wings and Flyers on Fox.
Locally, the game crushed all other competition. In Chicago, the game drew a 25.1 overnight, up 49% from Game 1 of the Blackhawks' 2010 Final with the Flyers. In Boston, it drew a 28.1 overnight, up 10% from Game 1 of the Bruins' 2011 Final with the Canucks.
After a pair of Conference Finals that did ridiculously well for NBC and the NHL, they've got to be happy with the start of the Stanley Cup Final. The overnight for Game 1 actually ended up topping the Belmont Stakes on NBC (4.6), was even with Game 4 of the Heat-Bucks Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on ABC, and was a hair below Game 1 of ABC's Pacers-Knicks Eastern Conference Semifinals. Considering the weaker than predicted viewership numbers heading into the NBA Finals on ABC, I wouldn't be surprised if the Stanley Cup Final games that aired on NBC continued to perform very well in comparison. If this series gets anymore games like last night's classic it could lead to some of the biggest ratings the NHL has ever seen.