The hype surrounding Chicago Blackhawks forward Connor Bedard was reflected in television ratings on Tuesday and Wednesday, with both ESPN and TNT producing record numbers. Here’s what you need to know:
- ESPN’s broadcast of the Blackhawks’ opening win over the Pittsburgh Penguins averaged 1.43 million viewers, becoming the NHL’s most-watched regular season game.
- The Blackhawks-Penguins game pitted two No. 1s against each other as 18-year-old Bedard went up against 36-year-old Sidney Crosby.
- The Blackhawks’ loss to the Boston Bruins a day later averaged 917,000 viewers on TNT. It is the second-highest viewership for a regular-season game on the network, with the first being the 2022 Winter Classic, which drew 1.362 million viewers and set the record for the most-watched NHL regular season game on cable television.
Numbers bigger than expected
We all knew Bedard was going to be a big draw out of the gate, but it seems like it’s even bigger than expected. But I don’t think anything surprising will happen quickly with the 18-year-old phenom. As many, many, many people are finding out, he’s the one on the ice. He had one goal and one assist in two games with the Blackhawks. Of course, that only tells part of the story.
He has already attempted 18 shots, 11 of which have been on net. He could easily have had a few more goals and assists. Those points will soon add up as they adjust to the NHL level. Other than that, it’s about how he plays. The shot, the vision, the playmaking, his whole game is so unique. Those viewership numbers were largely based on the intrigue factor, and I bet most people weren’t disappointed. — Scott Powers, Blackhawks senior writer
What this means for Chicago
For the Blackhawks, it will put them back on the national radar. They were the darling of the league for a number of years, winning three Stanley Cups in six years and being selected to appear frequently on national television and play in the league’s biggest events. Those invitations have become fewer and fewer in recent years, but Bedard will undoubtedly change that.
The league needs to know what opportunity it has with Bedard to cash in on new and old hockey fans. — Forces
A phenomenal gift to the league
The NHL won’t shout about it publicly, but landing Bedard in Chicago was a phenomenal gift to the league as a spectator game. Chicago led the league in viewership in 2010, and the 2013 Stanley Cup Final between Chicago and Boston averaged 5.76 million viewers, the best average for the Stanley Cup Final since 1995.
While the NHL is at its core a regional sport, Boston and Pittsburgh are very attractive teams (the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers would also fit in here) when it comes to drawing viewership for national games.
The league and its media partners wanted to introduce Bedard early — and the best way to ensure a big following was to find attractive opponents for what could be a generational player. Mission accomplished. — Richard Deitsch, Senior Sports Media Writer
(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)