NHL's return sees best regular-season TV ratings in a decade

The NHL returned Saturday to tremendous fan reaction, reflected in great attendance numbers for the home openers. There was no dip on the TV side of things either.

NBC announced Sunday the overnight ratings from Saturday's action were very strong, carrying a 2.0. That's the best overnight rating for a regular-season NHL game that wasn't a Winter Classic in more than a decade, back in 2002 when the NHL was on ABC. It was up 67 percent from last season's average broadcast rating.

Think about that for a minute. Fans, who repeated over and over again during the lockout how angry they were -- and many who swore off the NHL-- turned out in the greatest numbers they have in a long time to watch the NHL come back from another lockout.

While the 2.0 rating isn't going to jump off the page compared to other sporting broadcasts, in comparison with other hockey numbers it's obviously revealing. Fans haven't turned off hockey even after another lockout. In fact, it's like they're masochistic and are coming back in even greater droves.

Then there are the numbers in the local markets, like Pittsburgh. The Penguins opened the season on the road against the hated Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh had a 19.4 rating for the afternoon game while Philadelphia put more than 19,000 fans in the seats and added a 7.8 rating on TV.

Chicago, which had its Blackhawks playing at the Kings in the split national game, turned in a 6.6 rating for that game. All three of those marks represent records for regular-season, non-Winter Classic games.

I'll admit it, I was way off in thinking there would be some bad aftermath from the lockout. The response since the NHL came back has been loud and clear.

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