The NHL's ratings for games on NBC this weekend weren't just "up" from last year, they were WAY up.
Sunday's Penguins-Flyers game got a 2.3 overnight rating, and was up 77% from last year's game in the timeslot. It was the highest rating for a Stanley Cup quarterfinals game since April of 2001, and was the highest for a non-Stanley Cup Final playoff game since a 2002 Western Conference Final game between the Avalanche and Red Wings.
The 2-1 Capitals victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins drew a 1.5 overnight rating, up 36% from last year's comparable game between the Red Wings and Coyotes. I think you can solely attribute that to the rabid Boston market, who has absolutely fallen in love with the Bruins since last year's Stanley Cup run and has been eating up everything they've been putting out.
And then, there is the Predators-Red Wings game. There was no "comparable" game last year, due to NBC only airing two games last year as opposed to three this year. The 1.5 rating drawn by this game was up 36% on the regular season (non-Winter Classic and non-Thanksgiving) average.
There's also some news on NBC Sports Network ratings. While we don't have detailed numbers, the first two days of the playoffs on NBC Sports are up 22% from last year's ratings, drawing 600,000 viewers this season in comparison to 490,000 viewers last season.
This is incredible news for the NHL. The playoffs this year have been awesome, and we're still in the first round. This year's playoffs feature traditional markets, like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Detroit, and Boston, as well as some less conventional markets, like Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Miami. It actually looks like Gary Bettman's initiative to "grow the game" is working pretty well, as Phoenix sold out both of its two home games thus far, and the Florida Panthers came ridiculously close to selling out both games as well. It looks like things are finally turning around for the NHL.
[h/t: Fang's Bites]