Game 7 of NHL Finals draws 8 million viewers

Hockey is still considered a niche sport in much of the country, but Friday’s clincher in the Stanley Cup Finals drew a sizable national crowd on NBC.

Nielsen estimates that an average of 8 million viewers showed up for Friday’s seventh and deciding game of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings — the largest aud for a National Hockey League contest in 36 years.

The tune-in is even more impressive since the game aired on lightly watched Friday. And as with all sports telecasts, the Nielsen figure doesn’t include viewing done in venues such as sports bars or airports.

The game, won 2-1 by the Penguins in a rematch of the previous year’s final, averaged a 3.4 rating/12 share in adults 18-49. For the night, NBC topped the combined delivery of ABC, CBS and Fox.

The last NHL contest to draw a larger aud was Game 6 of the 1973 Cup final (Montreal-Chicago, also on NBC), which averaged 9.4 million viewers.

On Sunday, meanwhile, Game 5 of the NBA Finals on ABC averaged a preliminary 5.6 rating in adults 18-49 and 14 million viewers overall. The contest, in which the Los Angeles Lakers overtook the Orlando Magic midway through the second quarter and were never seriously threatened thereafter, clinched the 15th pro basketball title for the Lakers franchise.

Though this year’s championship round ended up coming in a bit below the ratings for last year’s six-game Lakers-Boston Celtics series, it’s nonetheless the second highest-rated in the last five years.

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