Connor Bedard Oct 10, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Connor Bedard (98) reacts to a goal by center Ryan Donato (not pictured) against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period at the PPG Paints Arena. Beard assisted on the goal to record his first NHL point in his league debut. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Connor Bedard hype train rolled through ESPN’s airwaves on Tuesday, and viewership for the game smashed records.

Per Sports TV Ratings, the Blackhawks’ 4-2 win over the Penguins in the middle slot of ESPN’s season-opening tripleheader averaged 1.431 million viewers. While it was only the third-most-watched sports program of the day, behind both ALDS games on Fox, Sports Media Watch notes that this was the most-watched non-Winter Classic NHL game on cable ever. While that’s admittedly a lot of qualifiers, it’s noteworthy given the amount of NHL games that have aired on cable over the years, from the league’s multiple deals with NBC to its current deals with ESPN and Warner Bros. Discovery.

The game was also good for the most-watched indoor regular season NHL game or any network (broadcast or cable) since the start of the 2021 season, and the largest audience for an NHL Opening Day/Night since the 2013 season.

The audience for this year’s game nearly doubled the audience for last year’s game between the Rangers and Lightning, which averaged 744,000 viewers in the comparable window.

Starting off the night, Predators-Lightining averaged 598,000 viewers with no comparison to last year (because there was only a season-opening doubleheader). In the late game of the tripleheader, ESPN averaged 691,000 viewers for Kraken-Golden Knights, up 24% from last year’s late game between the Golden Knights and Kings.

ESPN’s advertising blitz for the NHL this week probably wasn’t the primary reason for such a significant increase in viewership for this game, but it probably didn’t hurt, either.

[Sports Media Watch]

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.