I spent quite a bit of time in the Twittersphere and on my TribLive radio talk show today talking about the ratings for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
The ratings were down all over and down in Pittsburgh and that gave ammunition to the people who like to claim that Pittsburgh isn’t really a hockey town and that the Penguins are really rock stars whose fans don’t really like to watch hockey games that don’t include them.
The Penguins had the best regular season, local TV ratings in the NHL. Their ratings were higher than any NBA team’s.
Pittsburgh is consistently one of the better markets for Stanley Cup playoff games that don’t include the Penguins.
(Buffalo is the best.)
Of course, there’s a huge drop off when the Penguins drop out.
Some of that is just lack of interest and a lot of it is just disappointment and not wanting to be reminded that the Penguins aren’t in it.
Hockey haters like to point to the big numbers that NFL games that don’t include the Steelers get in Pittsburgh.
It’s an apples to oranges comparison.
During the hockey season, a good Penguins fan will watch at least three Penguins games on TV. Sometimes four.
The Steelers play once a week. Every fan is going to do everything possible to see that one game.
A Steeler fan who is also a genuine pro football fan is not going to be satisfied with watching one NFL game per week.
A Penguins fan has already committed three or four nights during the week to watching NHL hockey.
It’s a little much to expect him to also put aside time to watch the NBCSports Game of the Week.
That game of the week is 1/82nd of the schedule.
Not quite the same as the Ravens playing the Bengals on Monday Night Football.
Nobody with a brain would suggest that the NFL would get the ratings it gets if it played five times as many games.
Does anybody really think the Steelers would get 45 ratings if they played 82 games?
To get a good measure of just how popular the sport of hockey (as opposed to the Penguins) is in Western Pa., you would have to survey the local schools and see how many kids are playing hockey and how many are playing football.
I would be willing to bet that the numbers are about the same, despite the fact that the schools don’t support hockey.
A generation and a half ago, Western Pa. was producing a good number of Division I basketball prospects.
How many have come out of here lately?
There are a lot more hockey players succeeding at the highest levels than there are basketball players.
The Devils and Kings play Game 2 tomorrow night. That game won’t get numbers that will come close to what the Ravens and Patriots got last year.
Mainly because football is a lot more popular than hockey.
But also because, although tomorrow night may not be officially a Summer night, it feels just like one.
The NHL is too stupid to understand how absurd it is to be playing hockey in June. Maybe someone will figure it out one of these years.
When the Patriots and the Ravens played in January, it was 20 degrees and dark outside.
They had a captive audience. The Kings and Devils don’t.