The Colorado Avalanche were once a very important franchise in the National Hockey League. Not only were they a team that drew decent ratings, they also formed one half of the vaunted Red Wings-Avalanche rivalry that ruled the NHL of the late 90s and early 00s.
Colorado has fallen on hard times in recent years, and it has reflected in the fans interest in watching the club-owned Altitude Network. The Avs averaged a 0.85 rating in Denver last season, and were one of only three American NHL clubs to actually see its ratings go down during the lockout shortened 2012-13 season.
However, with a member of those glory days editions of the Avs behind the bench in Patrick Roy, and an envious amount of young talent (Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Ryan O'Reilly and 2013 No. 1 overall pick Nathan MacKinnon) the team appears to be headed on the road back, at least when it comes to television. A six-game winning streak before last night's first loss of the campaign certainly doesn't hurt.
Last night's violent, controversial tilt against the former hated rival Red Wings drew a 2.3 rating on Altitude, with a peak rating of 3.0 from 9-9:15 p.m. ET. The previous season high (2.2) came in Roy's smashing (literally) debut against the Ducks on Oct. 2.
Now, let's try and put that in context. None of the other three teams (Rockies, Nuggets, Avs) are ever going to catch Bronco-like ratings in the market, not when Peyton and the boys are hitting the low 40s this early in the season. The Avs numbers are good, compared to the recent past, but there's still work to be done. The Rockies two-game homestand against the Red Sox in late September averaged a 3.1 rating on ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain in Denver.
Still, it's encouraging to see a team that has been down for quite a while pick up steam again. The Avalanche are what I call a "gateway" franchise for the NHL. They're a team that, when good, can draw decent ratings in a western market, and allow you to play NHL games on national television at say, 10 p.m. ET. While the NHL has plenty of good franchises out west, none of them have really proven enough of a local draw to put their games on NBCSN late at night. Could the Avalanche change that? It appears the appetite for their games has returned, at least in Colorado.