Blackhawks clincher sets new mark for TV ratings

Ed Sherman
Chicago Tribune
Chicago accounted for nearly 25% of Game 6 viewers.

The Blackhawks are the undisputed ratings kings of hockey. In fact, the Chicago rating for Game 6 likely set a record with the most households watching in one market.

NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus said the team is unique in another way: No other market in sports makes up a larger percentage of the overall national rating than Chicago does for Blackhawks games.

The numbers tell the story again. The Blackhawks’ third Stanley Cup clincher did a 41 rating on NBC-5; 1 local ratings point is worth nearly 35,000 homes. That means an estimated 1.43 million homes in the Chicago area were tuned into their 2-0 victory.

The 41 rating was the highest ever for a Blackhawks game in Chicago. The previous high was a 32.8 rating for Game 6 of the 2010 series when they won their first Stanley Cup.

To put it in further perspective: the 41 rating is comparable to the Chicago rating for a non-Bears Super Bowl.

NBC officials couldn’t confirm, but the data strongly suggests that no other single market has ever generated 1.43 million homes for a hockey game. Boston and Pittsburgh have produced higher local rating numbers for games, but their markets (Boston is seventh with 2.4 million homes and Pittsburgh is 22nd with 1.17 million homes) aren’t nearly as big as Chicago, the nation’s third largest Nielsen market with 3.47 million homes.

The highest-rated hockey game in New York, the nation’s No. 1 market at 7.4 million homes, is believed to be the Rangers’ Stanley Cup winner in Game 7 in 1994, which was seen in an estimated 1.1 million homes in that area.

As for the national number, the game did a 4.4 rating on NBC. The Chicago market accounted for 31 percent of the estimated 4.6 million homes watching the telecast.

That’s a fairly typical chunk for a big Blackhawks game. Lazarus couldn’t think of another market generating a comparable percentage of the national rating in any sports telecast.

“Boston does well for the Bruins, but I’d have to say it is Chicago,” Lazarus said.

The combination of the large Chicago market and passionate following has been ratings gold for NBC. The 2015 Stanley Cup Final averaged 5.55 million viewers and a 3.19 rating across NBC and NBCSN, making it the second-most watch Final since 1994. Naturally, the first involved the Blackhawks: the 2013 Final against Boston averaged 5.75 million viewers.

“Any time there’s a team that has dominance, it creates a national following,” Lazarus said. “It helps the whole game. Chicago has done that. It’s been terrific.”

Chicago Tribune contributor Ed Sherman writes about sports media at Follow him @Sherman_Report.

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