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.




  • FreddieTheFlute

    No cares about the Pens unless they are winning. Case in point, here’s an article via Joe Starkey, which can’t be read anymore, but the head line says it all:

    “Penguins’ TV ratings dropping fast – Pittsburgh Tribune”

    That was in December 2002, when the novelty of Lemieux’s second comeback wore off and they started losing.

    • John Steigerwald

      That was when the Penguins had become the Pirates because the NHL had become MLB. The fans had seen 10 years of the Pirates and weren’t going to accept the same from the Penguins and the NHL. The lockout changed all that. If the NFL dropped the salary cap and the Steelers strung together a few 3-13, 6-10 seasons and their starts lefty because to go to bigger markets, their ratings would be in the toilet in short order.

  • GeeWhiz

    Stan Savaran was on Mark Madden’s show the day after Game 1 of SCF and he said that Pittsburgh was 5th in the ratings I believe. Below Buffalo, Boston, Detroit and Oklahoma City (yeah, Stan was shocked with that one too) What was more intriguing was that he said last year’s ratings the city of Boston alone had higher ratings than the LA/NY markets combined this year. Not sure how those numbers are now that they’re a few games into it.

    • John Steigerwald

      New York is a terrible sports town and LA shouldn’t have an NHL team.

  • Niblick

    I think you are probably correct in that the fans in this town are typically fans of the home team. My favorite team sports are baseball and hockey and watch the local teams when it is convenient for me. Those games are typically at night when there isn’t much to do. I hate watching NFL games because of the time outs and commercials. Plus, who in their right mind would sit in front of a TV on a 75 degree October day? I know it is entertainment for some, but geez get a life or something.

    • Bobzilla

      There are 365 days in a year. The Steelers use up about 20 of those 365 days. A 75-degree day isn’t going to prevent me from watching something I enjoy.Enjoyment is part of my life.
      But thanks for your concern.

  • keith colvin

    I am a “big hockey fan. I am also a huge penguin fan. I usually only watch penguin games. I also watch most steeler games, but seldom watch any other pro football games. Anyone who has the time to watch multiple games, has a lot of time on their hands!!

    ps– Wouldn’t watch the pirates, if they were playing in my living room!!!

    • Bobzilla

      I absolutely watch other NFL teams besides the Steelers. I make the time. Watching other teams is the only way to measure your own “favorite” team.
      For instance, the Steelers produced a 12-4 record last season, but without actually being a 12-4 team. They couldn’t force turnovers on defense, and they couldn’t score TDs on offense, which as been a major problem since 2008.
      Casual fans are fans who watch one team … until the beer keg runs dry, then they pass out.

      • Dan

        I don’t often agree with you Bob but you nailed this one. Watching other teams gives the required context to the type of season your team is having. Anyone who watched the way the Saints, the Packers, the 49ers and the Ravens play saw that the Steelers couldn’t match up with those teams and had a slim chance at winning it all. Heck the Houston Texans were probably the best team in the conference until Schaub and Williams went down. The Steelers had one shot – escape a weak AFC and go to an anything-can-happen Super Bowl.

        I am still stunned the Giants won it all. they were total bullshit for the majority of the season last year – they barely won multiple games they should have lost due to teams gagging late with turnovers and penalties. And they didn’t lose one game they should have won.

        • Bobzilla

          There were several playoff teams last season that weren’t actual playoff teams, all from the AFC, which gave the Steelers a decent chance.
          Ironically, one of those suspect playoff teams was the 8-8 Broncos. Poor game-planning by LeBeau and a Steelers offense that did nothing the first half cost them the game.
          The Ravens clearly were the best team in the AFC last season, while the 49ers probably were the NFC’s most “complete” team.
          The Giants winning it all was certainly a stunner. But that’s the way Goodell wants it: A 7-9, 8-8, 9-7 team winning it all.

  • Chuck

    I’ve always just been a casual fan of Hockey. I’ll watch the Penquins on occasion during the season, but do watch all their playoff games. Whenever the Penquins are eliminated, like this year, that about ends my hockey interest. I’ll read in the paper what the other teams are doing, but that’s about the extent of it. I would guess there’s a lot of people like me because except for one of my buddies, absoutely NOBODY I know talks about the playoffs…..

    • stennet

      A real Penguin fan watches until the Flyers,and Capitals are eliminated too.

  • imgreat95

    Its simple, to me. I love hockey. BUT, as a father of 2 and a husband, it takes everything I can to be able to watch the Pens games. As a result of monopolizing the tv 3 or 4 nights a week, I dont watch other teams much. Therefore, when the playoffs start, I dont know any of the players on the other teams. Especially in the west. I will watch some of the Finals, but its not MUST SEE tv in my mind. Add to it also that games dont start until well after 8 and some people have to work in the mornings (I get up at 415am to go to work..) and it doesnt surprise me that ratings are down.

  • JimGott

    -I would argue that Pittsburgh isn’t a hockey, football, or a baseball town, but at the same time you could describe it as a “town” of all 3 of those sports, if that makes sense. More to the point, Pittsburgh is a winning town.

    -We are die-hard fans of whatever sport is bringing our city success and recognition nationally.

    -If the Penguins and/or The Steelers had 2 or 3 losing seasons in a row, the “hockey and football fans” that make this a football and/or a hockey “town” would be jumping off the bandwagon faster than we could blink an eye. Attendance, interest, and ratings would diminish quickly. Then, we would magically no longer hear the echoes from fans that we are a “town” of that particular sport. Then when that sport starts winning again we magically become a “town” of that sport again.

    -In the 60’s and 70’s we were a “baseball town.” Then in the 70’s we were a “football town.” In the 80’s we weren’t a “town” of anything. Then in the 90’s we were a “football town” again. And now, in the mid 2,000’s we became a “hockey town.”

    -Bottom line, Pittsburgh is a “winning town.” It has also become quite the “bandwagon town.”

    • John Steigerwald

      Pittsburgh is the same as every other town.

  • Tim

    Hockey is a sport driven by local revenues. My guess is that the Stanley Cup Finals run into June is because the owners believe that a regular season from October through March will make them more money than one that ran September through February. September is too summer like and has football to compete with. March doesn’t have either of those issues.

    • John Steigerwald

      June’s not summer-like?

      • Tim

        It’s all about getting regular season games in the Oct-March time frame. Every team sells out the post season. Pretty sure the billionaires who own these teams know the right time to place the season.

        • John Steigerwald

          Gluttony is all about quantity. You don’t have to eat large volumes of food to get fat.

  • Matt

    I think Pittsburgh is more Penguin town than hockey town, but I think the match up has a lot to do with it. I don’t even like watching the Penguins when they play the devils because of the style of play. I loved watching the final game of the conference final because I just wanted the Rangers to lose.

    • John Steigerwald

      The Devils don’t play the old Devils way. Last night’s game was a good one.

  • Frank

    “There are a lot more hockey players succeeding at the highest levels than there are basketball players.”

    In the 2011 NHL draft alone, four Pittsburgh natives were taken in the first three rounds. More recently, Wexford native Michael Houser was named the CHL goaltender of the year and the OHL Most Outstanding Player.

    That’s not too shabby for an area that supposedly has very little interest in hockey.

    As for the SC finals, I do have to wonder if the TV ratings in the Detroit, Boston or Chicago markets are any better for this particular SC final? With all three teams ousted and considering this is not the most intriguing meeting in finals history, I do have to wonder.

    Also, the NHL does have it ass backwards. On top of playing hockey in June, the television scheduling is mind boggling. They played a game on Wednesday and then took two days off. Why not have a game every other night? The casual fan tends to lose interest if you drag it out.

    Finally and the end of the day, I couldn’t care less if hockey is not as popular as the NFL or MLB in this city. I love watching it no matter the case. For those who don’t like it, don’t watch it. I’ll enjoy watching the remainder of the finals and attending the draft later in the month and they can enjoy watching Boyz II Men and Styx at PNC Amusement Park.


  • stennet

    A lot of people have football games on just to play fantasy football.

  • Jim Loeffert

    Hockey fans are a strange breed, I’m still going through Memorial Cup withdraw! I love the Pens, but you gotta love how J. Quick is making the spectacular look amazingly simple! Overall, you hit the nail pretty squarely on the head on this topic Mr. John Steigerwald. Yet there are a few of us die-hards out here, who waited with salivating mouths for Gretzky & those crazy skilled Oilers teams to come out and play ‘Globe-trotter’ type hockey! Making teams look foolish shift after amazing shift!

  • Bobzilla

    If I were an actually (not to be confused with casual) hockey fan, you better believe that I’d be watching the playoffs regardless of the weather. A balmy night would not stop me from enjoying my favorite sport. To suggest otherwise is absurd.
    If I lived in Miami, and if the Dolphins were my favorite NFL team, I’d find the time to pull myself out of my swimming pool long enough to watch them play.
    This isn’t complicated.
    True hockey fans watch hockey.
    True football fans watch football.
    Casual fans of either league are only watching because there’s a beer keg to be emptied.

    • John Steigerwald

      We’re not talking about watching your favorite team. We’re talking about watching when your favorite team has been eliminated. Nobnody can deny that you have a better chance of getting viewers when it’s 20 degrees and dark in 75% of the country.

      • Bobzilla

        Obviously more football fans watch games that don’t involve their favorite teams than do hockey fans.
        Football is America’s favorite sport.
        Hockey ranks fourth.
        If you are suggesting that trend is caused by the weather, you are in denial.

        • John Steigerwald

          If you think I;m suggesting that then you have a reading comprehension problem. I’m suggesting that the weather in January helps the NFL’s TV ratings tremendously and that it should be taken into account when making comparisons. That’s all.

          • Bobzilla

            There is no such thing as a “captive audience.” Most people have 500 channels to choose from… even if it’s 20 degrees and dark outside.
            This country simply doesn’t like hockey nearly as much as it likes football. Pretty simple.

          • John Steigerwald

            You really don’t have to tell me that the country likes the NFL more than the NHL. My point is that an already immensely popular sport’s TV ratings are enhanced by the fact that, when their biggest games are played,it’s 20 degrees outside in most of the country. There is no denying that.