For the first time since 1969-70, there are no Canadian teams in the NHL playoffs. The mighty Canadiens? Not this year. Johnny Hockey and the Flames? Flamed out. McDavid and the Oilers? Wait ’til next year (again). The Maple Leafs, Senators or Jets? Not happening.
Executives at Rogers probably feel like a cruel joke has been played on them after signing a landmark 12-year rights deal in 2013 for $5.232 billion Canadian dollars and the rights to air the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Final in Canada. It’s not the end of the world for Rogers. Canadians will still tune in, especially when their countrymen are playing, but it’s unlikely that some of the more casual fans will be attracted to a Stanley Cup Finals matchup between, say, the Ducks and Panthers. This comes just a year after Canadian Stanley Cup ratings fell dramatically so Rogers is certainly hoping for a Canadian team to come through and regain relevance again.
On the other side of things, Mark Lazarus and other NBC execs are probably high-fiving right about now. Not only are Stanley Cup Finals ratings trending upwards with last year’s Game 6 pulling a very impressive 4.4, they’re also guaranteed to have appealing competition this season with no chance of a Canadian Stanley Cup. With previously untapped markets like Miami in the mix as well as the usual suspects with the Rangers, Islanders, Caps, Kings, Red Wings and Blackhawks all providing their normal ratings power, things look great for NBC.
After a ratings plateau with ESPN passing on the NHL’s rights following the 2005 lockout, it looked like hockey may never regain first-tier status in American sports. Things have been climbing upwards, but this year’s playoffs have a chance to firmly cement the NHL in that position.