NHL ratings are already in the tank after Vancouver Olympics
Bob Raissman
NY Daily News
Saturday, March 6th 2010

By the middle of last week, anyone with a sense of reality or humor, was tired of hearing the following question: Will the drawing power of the Olympic ice hockey tournament provide any lift, or ratings lift-off, for the National Hockey League?

After all, many eyeballs - about 28 million viewers - watched NBC's coverage Sunday of Canada's OT win over USA in the gold medal game. Many of these fans were of the casual variety who don't follow the NHL on a regular basis.

No matter. There won't be any residual ratings benefit coming the NHL's way. Just look what went down here on Thursday night. The Penguins, featuring the NHL's marquee faceman, Sidney Crosby, invaded the nation's biggest media market to play the Rangers in the Garden on MSG.

This was not a well kept secret. The Gulag Network does a fine job promoting hockey. So the stage was set. Crosby, coming off his game-winning Olympic goal, was available to millions of cable subscribers on MSG. The game was terrific. Henrik Lundqvist turned back 50 shots, but the Pens won, 5-4, in OT. In games like this, viewers who are surfing usually stick when they come across electric action.

Add to this all that Olympic buzz and you've got the recipe for a nice rating for MSG, right?

Not quite.

The game pulled a .96 rating. Let's put this in perspective. On Thursday afternoon the Mets played an exhibition game against the Cardinals on SportsNet New York. The Mets won, 17-11. By the third inning, there was a bunch of strangers playing. The game was not even in HD.

The grapefruit matchup still recorded a 1.13 rating. When a marquee contest like Penguins-Rangers can't beat a meaningless exhibition baseball game in the ratings department, well, so much for all that Olympic noise. By the way, Thrashers-Islanders on MSG+ Thursday night notched a .23 rating. So, the combined Rangers/Isles rating (1.19) barely beat out that meaningless Mets game.

Bettman's slap shot

Gary Bettman is very slick, sort of.

While a wide assortment of suits, mostly from NBC, were patting themselves on the back, going gaga over their Olympic TV ratings, including hockey (which the Peacock refused to air in prime time), the commish was playing it close to the vest on whether he'll send NHL players to the town of Sochi in Russia to play in the 2014 winter games.

Ya think Bettman wants something in return for committing his troops to play so far away? Like maybe some straight-up dough from NBC for the rights to air its NHL Sunday afternoon games along with a package of playoff dates?

The NHL's current NBC deal, which expires after the 2010-11 season, is a revenue-sharing agreement.

One final piece of Olympic biz: Got to start worrying when Cris Collinsworth, as he did during some of his Olympic appearances on NBC, refers to himself as "CC." Is Collinsworth beginning to take himself seriously?