National Hockey League brass should be dancing with glee over the television ratings from Thursday’s Winter Classic.

To put those somewhat nebulous TV numbers into context: Earlier this holiday season, ABC scored a 5.3 overnight rating for a Christmas Day NBA game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics. That’s a comparable showcase sports event on network television, so it shows that, while hockey is still a distinct rung down the ladder from hoops (not to mention football and baseball), it’s at least closer to the same neighborhood than it used to be.

And of course, the new Winter Classic showing was a healthy increase over the 2.6 rating for last year’s inaugural, featuring the Buffalo-Pittsburgh tilt. Basically, momentum is building, which is exactly what the league was hoping for.

I’m pretty sure the data-parsing of these numbers will show most of the viewers in Chicago and Detroit, with a respectable number of eyeballs in the Northeast and other hockey-heavy pockets. That’s certainly acceptable, as no one’s expecting Super Bowl-like penetration from a glammed-up regular-season NHL game. Again, it’s a process, and so far a successful one, both game-wise and exposure-wise.

For the immediate term, this means that the NHL will try to keep the ball rolling. Best way to do that is to again feature two big-market teams on New Year’s Day 2010, which translates into New York Rangers-Boston Bruins matchup at Yankees Stadium. I’d kinda prefer to see Denver host the next WC, but I can’t complain about getting a chance to see a local New York edition of outdoor hockey.

UPDATE, 01/04/2009: Courtesy of Puck Daddy (who I’ll also thank for the trackback and featured blockquoting), here’s the ratings breakdown for the WC among the nation’s top-ten markets, by local rating/share.

Pleasantly surprising as far as the geographic breadth. I’m not so surprised with the strength of the Florida showing, but am surprised that my old home region of Tampa Bay didn’t crack this ten — and got beat out by rival Orlando, to boot.


The party-junk manufacturers have something up their sleeves for two years down the line. But they’ll have to do it without the original inventors of these specs, who are giving up.

As you can see above, the year doesn’t have to contain consecutive double-zeros for face-strappable fun. So not only does next year’s 2010 work, so will 2020, 2030, etc. Not that a once-a-decade frequency is a particularly sustainable business model…

I also wonder why these goofy glasses didn’t catch on twenty years ago. The ’80s and ’90s would have lended themselves well to this numerical creativity, with 8s and 9s having that closed-loop effect. I guess it took a millennium to make it happen.