The numbers may not reflect it, as the Winter Classic received the lowest rating of the five events that have now taken place, garnering a 2.4 overnight rating. There are no reported numbers on how many viewers there were, but the rating is nothing to worry about due to scheduling reasons.
More importantly, the NHL's growth is continuing at a great pace. Just last June, the NHL set a record with Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, attracting 8.5 million viewers.
This year's Winter Classic had some components that kept the rating from plummeting, but the bad aspects still made it drop a little.
First, one has to wonder what kind of rating it could have done if it had been on the traditional New Year's Day Game date. Obviously, going up against the NFL wasn't a good idea, but this is mere speculation of what would've happened if New Year's Day wasn't a football Sunday.
Obviously, New Year's Day is preferred due to the fact that many viewers have to work on January 2, and that seemed to take a lot out of the game's rating.
The NFL actually may have helped the game more than they hurt it. A game between the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys to decide which team would make the playoffs the night before on NBC was one of the highest rated regular season games in NFL history; it provided great exposure for the Winter Classic the following day.
Also, while moving to 3 o'clock may have helped the rating, one has to wonder how much better the Winter Classic would've held up in a prime-time slot.
The game also certainly received some benefit from the second production of HBO's 24/7 documentary, which depicts what goes on in NHL locker rooms and other things that take place behind the scenes.
There's absolutely no denying that the game got a helping hand in the ratings due to the teams playing. It's not just that these teams are big hockey markets, but that they're simply big markets in general.
The combined metro population of Philadelphia and New York City is a little over 25 million, which is nearly double the metro population of any two previous competitors in the Winter Classic.
The NHL will certainly look to continue its success with the Winter Classic, as well as other regular season events such as the newly established Thanksgiving Showdown and Hockey Day in America.
As always, there will be speculation about what two teams will play in the next Winter Classic. Currently, there are rumors swirling that the Detroit Red Wings will be the next host. You can read more about where they will host the game and who they are up against in this article.
Jordan Matthews writes for the NHL and the Detroit Red Wings. You can read Jordan's recent articles here:
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