The L.A. Kings and the New Jersey Devils are playing in the Stanley Cup Finals and nobody cares. Hockey is the default bastard child of major North American sports, but it’s definitely more popular than soccer… right?
Sadly, wrong. Sunday night’s Game 2 was less popular than a friendly match between Brazil and Mexico, among some 66 other TV shows. What’s even more frustrating is that Game 2, along with Game 1, was nationally televised on NBC. Game 3, which also had lousy ratings, was on the NBC Sports Network. Good luck finding that channel–if your TV service provider even carries it.
When I learned of this, I figured, “Yeah, that seems right. Hockey isn’t all that popular, so the ratings are bound to be low.” Turns out I was wrong. Last year’s Game 7 between Boston and Vancouver was the most-watched hockey game in 38 years, and the second-highest in that time span was 2010’s Game 6 between Chicago and Philly. This year’s Finals are in danger of being the least-watched since 1995.
The actual on-ice product in these playoffs has been really good, and although the Kings lead New Jersey 3-0, the Finals have also been worthy of high viewership. Los Angeles isn’t exactly a hockey town (meaning it’s not Canadian or full of bearded Americans), but it’s a huge city, and last time I checked, New Jersey is close to New York, which is also kinda big. As it turns out, the hockey fanbases in L.A. and Jersey are weak. The Kings ranked 15th in attendance this season, while the Devils were a pathetic 24th.
So, comparatively speaking, the fans in L.A. and Jersey don’t really give a shit. If the Kings win tonight’s Game 4 and clinch the series, they’ll be doing so on the NBC Sports Network. When’s the last time you saw a World Series, Super Bowl, or NBA Finals clincher on a channel that costs extra? If the Devils win and force Game 5, it’ll be televised on NBC, although my guess is NBC wants the Kings to win and the whole thing to be done with. Ever watch NBC? They seem much more interested in promoting Law and Order than these Finals. Oh, and don’t forget The Voice. I can’t wait for new episodes of The Voice. *Throat-slitting hand gesture* *Shamefully DVRs next episode*
As only a semi-fan of hockey, it’s a little disturbing that playoff games are poorly promoted and not on network television. Throughout these playoffs, I’ve cursed the NHL while I’ve struggled to find games on TV. Now, though, it seems apparent; the NHL isn’t on network TV because nobody is watching.
Follow Sean on Twitter: @sg44444