We all know hockey is king in Canada. But Toronto is a home to a team in three of the four major North American sports, as well as a Bills game once a year. How popular can the other major leagues be in a nation so nuts about the sticks and pucks?
An interesting test case is this year’s Toronto Raptors team, which has advanced to the postseason for the first time since 2008. Their first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets has received a fair amount of hype on both sides of the border. There have been many clever tabloid headlines, a broken clock, and of course, Rob Ford in a Raptors shirt.
Despite this, Canada’s lone NBA team is still getting battered in the ratings by playoff hockey featuring American teams. According to Chris Zelkovich of Yahoo! Sports, while solid for the Raptors, their audiences for Games 1 and 2 have placed no better than a dozen first-round Stanley Cup Playoff games, with audiences of 539,000 and 610,000 viewers. Not only have all the games of the lone Canadian playoff team in Montreal beaten them, but also games from the Avalanche-Wild, Kings-Sharks-Stars-Ducks, Red Wings-Bruins and Rangers-Flyers series.
It’s not necessarily a bleak picture for the Raptors. They are tripling their regular season audience, and Game 2’s audience was higher than Game 1’s despite Toronto losing Game 1. Still, when Blue Jays’ regular season games are topping Game 1’s numbers, you know basketball still has a ways to go in the True North.