Jan 3, 2011, 12:01 PM EDT
Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin wasn’t kidding when he said how exciting it was to play in front of millions of hockey fans.
Over the last four years, the Winter Classic proved that it could work in baseball parks such as Wrigley Field and football stadiums such as Heinz Field. Due to some rain-based intervention, Saturday’s event was delayed from the afternoon to prime time. Instead of seeing ratings that plummeted because of this unplanned alteration, Saturday’s Washington Capitals-Pittsburgh Penguins game instead proved that outdoor hockey can be a ratings success in that coveted time slot.
The 2011 Winter Classic had 4.5 million viewers, the highest number to date for the annual event. The number beat out the 4.4 million viewers the 2009 Winter Classic from Chicago’s Wrigley Field had and was up 22% from the 2010 Winter Classic in Boston. The game was also the most watched regular season game in 36 years.
Maybe it was the high-end star power that comes with featuring Sidney Crosby and Ovechkin. Perhaps it had a lot to do with the amazing buildup created by various promotions including HBO’s outstanding 24/7 series. Then again, it could also have been the natural progression of the league’s progress combined with the improving Winter Classic brand.
Whatever the case may be, the ratings were fantastic for the Winter Classic.
As for how the game did around the country, obviously Pittsburgh and Washington tuned in in big ways, but other cities across the country also tuned in in big ways. Here’s the top 10 cities in ratings and shares for this year’s event in Pittsburgh.
1. Pittsburgh, 32.0/46
2. Washington D.C., 7.6/13
3. Baltimore, 6.6/11
4. Buffalo, 5.3/8
T5. St. Louis, 4.3/7
T5. Denver, 4.3/7
7. Boston, 4.0/7
8. Richmond, 3.8/6
9. Philadelphia, 3.5/6
10. Columbus, 3.4/6
Getting such a huge rating out of Pittsburgh is incredible. While it dwarfs the numbers seen out of Washington, D.C. keep in mind that Maryland and Virginia are also Caps country which is why you see Baltimore third and Richmond eighth on this list. All around, the success of this year’s event is tremendous. With over 68,000 fans at Heinz Field and the TV ratings and viewership being at new highs it’s clear that the NHL has a winning product on its hands.
- WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks at Ducks, Western Conference Final Game 7 0
- After prepping for three years, Franson excited to test free agency 7
- Sabres’ Kane (shoulder) ‘ahead of schedule’ with recovery 17
- Lightning ‘answer the challenge’ in Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final 37
- Vigneault: McDonagh was playing with a broken foot 21
- Bolts strike Stanley Cup Final berth thanks to Game 7 win over Rangers 76
- The Ducks got Kesler for a game like Saturday’s 32
- Duchene slams Russian players for storming off after Canada’s 2015 WHC win 58
- DeBoer predicts ‘big bounce-back’ in San Jose 14
- Sabres name Bylsma head coach 46
- Kesler on wearing down Chicago: ‘No human can withstand that many hits’ (77)
- Bolts strike Stanley Cup Final berth thanks to Game 7 win over Rangers (76)
- From healthy scratch to hero: Vermette scores OT winner for Blackhawks (66)
- Duchene slams Russian players for storming off after Canada’s 2015 WHC win (58)
- Report: Bylsma to Sabres being held up by compensation issue (56)