On Monday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning raised the franchise’s second Stanley Cup following a 2-0 victory over the Dallas Stars in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.
I feel the need to alert you of this because not a lot of people watched Game 6, or the rest of the series.
The clincher drew 2.88 million viewers on NBC, far fewer viewers than not only Monday Night Football, but also various cable news programs, Dancing With the Stars on ABC, and reruns of both The Neighborhood and Young Sheldon on CBS. It was the least-watched Game 6 and least-watched clincher since at least the 2004-05 lockout.
Overall, the six game series averaged just 2.03 million viewers, the second-lowest since the lockout. Only 2007’s Ducks-Senators series was lower, averaging 1.6 million viewers.
In addition to the post-locket record-low for Game 6, this year’s Final drew record lows for Games 3 and 5. Games 1, 2, and 4 all clocked in as the third least-watched since the lockout.
Needless to say, this isn’t an ideal situation for the NHL, but like with the NBA Playoffs (faring better than the NHL, but still down), the ridiculous amount of competition on the schedule didn’t help. In addition to the NBA playoffs and regular season baseball, two regular competitors, the NHL has been forced to deal with the return of football. Games 2 and 6 of the series went head to head with Monday Night Football matchups that drew massive viewership (15.5 and 14.0 million, for Weeks 2 and 3). Games 1 and 5 aired on Saturday nights, head to head with college football. Game 3 aired on cable against the Masked Singer, America’s Got Talent, *and* an NBA Eastern Conference Finals game. Game 4 got a dreaded Friday night slot, and despite airing on NBC instead of cable, still nearly got doubled up by another game of the Heat-Celtics series.
Any obituary for the NHL is alarmist bullshit, written by someone with a short memory. Last summer, Game 7 of the Blues-Bruins Final was the most-watched NHL game on record in America, and that season’s playoffs were the most watched in more than two decades. Viewership tanked for the playoffs this year, with all playoff games averaging under a million viewers (916,000) thanks in part to plenty of day games from the bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton. Those fans that watched in droves last year didn’t just disappear this year, and it’s going to be up to Gary Bettman and company to bring them back once the NHL, and the world at large, inches closer towards something resembling normalcy.