Viewership Numbers Reveal NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs off to Record Start on Cable

by Bryan Fyalkowski

It was a riveting first round of NHL Stanley Cup Playoff action, and the television ratings reflected that. The league has announced that the 2022 first-round slate of games were the most-watched on cable ever in the United States.

The 2022 opening round – televised on ESPN, ESPN2, TNT and TBS – averaged 768,000 viewers, which was up 58% from 2021 games and 20% from 2019 games, which aired on NBC Sports Network, CNBC and USA. Female viewership specifically skyrocketed, increasing 83% from 2021 games and 49% from 2019 games.

Of the eight playoff series, only one – the Colorado Avalanche vs. the Nashville Predators – was a 4-0 sweep. Two matchups were decided in six contests, while five went to the brink of Game 7. The five Game 7’s that were played this past weekend totaled 28 million viewers. About 6.1 million watched the Tampa Bay Lightning defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs on May 14, while 4.3 million saw the New York Rangers stun the Pittsburgh Penguins on May 15.

The 2021-22 campaign marked the first year of a seven-year broadcast rights deal between the NHL and Disney – which owns ESPN, ESPN2, TNT and TBS. The league most recently had games on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC prior to the 2004-05 lockout. For the past 15 years, nationally-televised matchups had been on networks such as NBC, NBC Sports and Versus, which was owned by Comcast.

NHL Skates into Second Round Series

The second round pins four division rivals against each other. The Lightning face the Florida Panthers in the Sunshine State, the Rangers take on the Carolina Hurricanes, the Avalanche are across from the St. Louis Blues and the Battle of Alberta will commence between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers.

The NHL must be thrilled to have a number of interesting storylines remaining. The Lightning are still in it with a chance for a three-peat of back-to-back-to-back Stanley Cup trophies. The league’s best player, Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, will look to continue his exciting play. The 25-year-old superstar led all players in the first round with 14 points – four goals and 10 assists – in seven thrilling games between the Oilers and Los Angeles Kings.

The No. 1 seeds in the East (Florida) and the West (Colorado) still remain, as do the Rangers – a valuable Original Six franchise in the nation’s top media market of New York City.