The Tampa Bay Lightning’s 4-2 series win over the New York Rangers in the 2022 NHL Eastern Conference Finals averaged 2.38 million viewers on ESPN, a reasonably strong number heading into the team’s Stanley Cup Final matchup with the Colorado Avalanche.
Five of the six games, all airing on cable, drew over two million viewers, with the Sunday afternoon Game 3 as the lone outlier with 1.96 million. The series peaked with 2.837 million viewers for Saturday’s Game 6 clincher in primetime.
The numbers for ESPN’s series overshadow Turner’s viewership for the Avalanche’s sweep over the Oilers in the Western Conference Finals, which averaged 1.8 million viewers. That was the league’s best average viewership for a Western Conference Final since 2015.
There’s no real comp to 2021 due to the conference-free “Stanley Cup Semifinals” formatting we saw last year. But overall, it’s the best average viewership for the Eastern Conference Finals since at least 2016. Data is fuzzy between 2014 and 2016, and the Bruins’ sweep of the Penguins in 2013 averaged 2.9 million viewers. Regardless if it’s the best viewership since 2013 or 2016, it’s still a pretty decent number to pair up with a similarly impressive number for the Western Conference Finals (which involved both a sweep *and* a Canadian team).
However, despite airing on ABC beginning this week, I think the Lightning-Avalanche Stanley Cup Final has its work cut out for itself. This isn’t because of the matchup, but instead because the pre-pandemic Final was a seven-game barnburner between the Blues and Bruins that concluded with the most-watched NHL game on record in the US. Viewership for the 2020 and 2021 Stanley Cup Final matchups were shockingly bad, and it would be a true stunner if the Tampa Bay-Colorado series couldn’t roll past both of those. But it will take a lot of work for this series to surpasse several of the series that happened in the years prior to the pandemic (let alone the Blues-Bruins series).