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Posted at 11:59 AM ET, 01/ 3/2011

Capitals-Penguins Winter Classic ratings

By Dan Steinberg

A few ratings nuggets about the Winter Classic.

* In the D.C. market, the game earned a 7.6 rating and a 13 share, which means 13 percent of all TVs in use were watching that game. Honestly, I'd have guessed that number would have been higher. In Pittsburgh -- where the game got its biggest national rating -- the Winter Classic earned a 32.0 rating and an absurd 46 share. If I'm doing the math correctly, that means around 370,000 Pittsburgh households were watching the game.

* The highest-rated Caps game I know of was Game 7 of last year's Montreal playoff series on Comcast SportsNet. That game earned an 8.1 rating. So, in recent memory at least, the Winter Classic would rank second. The 7.6 rating equals about 177,000 households in this market.

* For those crazy folks, like me, that felt this was some sort of transcendent moment for hockey in this market, it's good to think back to the Redskins' season-opening primetime game on NBC. Same time, same network, 869,000 households.

* Baltimore's love affair with the Caps continued. The Winter Classic earned its third-highest ratings in that market, with a 6.6 rating and an 11 share. The story of Baltimore's increasing obsession with the Caps has yet to be written, but it's a pretty cool one. Richmond finished eighth in the ratings; Baltimore and Richmond were the only non-NHL cities in the top 10.

* Nationally, the game did boffo (for hockey), with a 2.3 national rating, up 22 percent over last year's game. That translates to 4.5 million viewers, which NBC says is the most people to watch an NHL regular season game since the Rangers met the Flyers in 1975.

* Of course, we should bear in mind that D.C. empties out around the holidays, and that the game had a late and drastic time change.

By Dan Steinberg  | January 3, 2011; 11:59 AM ET
Categories:  Caps, Media  
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Comments

A clear sign that nobody in Pittsburgh has cable or satellite television.

Posted by: pearlbullets | January 3, 2011 12:04 PM | Report abuse

As much as I don't like having to defend Pittsburgh, that city LOVES their hockey team. We got there on Thursday and everywhere we went, people were wearing Pens gear. If the Winter Classic came here, I can't imagine DC being a sea of red days before the event was going to take place. I feel sorry for people here that haven't figured out that the Caps are the best game in town. At least now that the Redskins have been put out of their misery for this season, they'll have time to catch a good game or two.

Posted by: amberlynne | January 3, 2011 12:08 PM | Report abuse

That city loves its hockey team when it wins. They were last in attendance before the lockout. They are frontrunners just like everyone else, but when they are in front they are very intense. Also, aside from Pitt basketball, Pens are the only winter game in town.

When I see the 7.6 rating, it tells me that the Caps-hosted Winter Classic ought to be at Nationals Park, instead of FedEx Field like Ted Leonsis apparently suggested. Getting 85,000 is a lot to ask.

Just don't put the Caps winter classic in Baltimore which the NHL said was in play.

Posted by: doubleuefwhy | January 3, 2011 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Dan-

I'll point out that the NBC affiliate in Baltimore led their sports on the 11pm news with the Winter Classic (not the Ravens, not college hoops, not bowl games, not the Terrapins...the Caps).

Plus, keep in mind that viewers in Anne Arundel and Howard Counties (among others) get both DC and Baltimore stations.

Posted by: jcurrin | January 3, 2011 12:25 PM | Report abuse

+20,000 for use of "boffo."

Posted by: meglulofs | January 3, 2011 1:04 PM | Report abuse

I thought the ratings would be bigger, too, but even so, there'd be no way they'd be anywhere near Pittsburgh, which has a much stronger hockey tradition (three Cups) and was actually hosting the game.

And the NFL dwarfs everything--even most primetime entertainment shows.

If it counts for anything in the D.C. sports culture, the sports bar in Bethesda I was at for the game seemed to have every one of its many televisions on the Caps game--which is progress.

Posted by: TheFingerman | January 3, 2011 1:23 PM | Report abuse

It may have helped also if the NBC coverage didn't suck . Was it me or did they spend 90% of the game rambling about the ice?? Not to mention the exciting shoot out with Franco and the Bus .
ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Posted by: jono57 | January 3, 2011 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Do we bring the racial makeup of each city into this discussion - or is that taboo?

Posted by: CF11555 | January 3, 2011 1:31 PM | Report abuse

this has less to do with pittsburgh's hockey tradition and more to do with demographics in dc/va/md. the caps don't translate to the diverse area in which we all live the way the redskins do. dan, you mentioned in your great piece this weekend a line that highlighted the background and demographics which best describe caps fans. while it may seem that all of dc is behind the caps, the group of diehard/bandwagon fans represent a pretty narrow selection of the people who make up our area, hence the low ratings.

Posted by: bobby08 | January 3, 2011 1:35 PM | Report abuse

That city loves its hockey team when it wins. They were last in attendance before the lockout. They are frontrunners just like everyone else, but when they are in front they are very intense. Also, aside from Pitt basketball, Pens are the only winter game in town.

Posted by: doubleuefwhy | January 3, 2011 12:17 PM | Report abuse

--------------

Actually, the Caps were not last in attendance in the 2003-04 season. They were 25th. Guess who was last?

*drum roll*

The Pittsburgh Penguins.

Don't act like Penguins fans are all about rich tradition and all that hogwash. They're front-runners who jumped on the bandwagon when Crosby came like everyone else.

Posted by: StuScott_Booyahs | January 3, 2011 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Oh God, I'm an idiot. Deepest apologies.

Posted by: StuScott_Booyahs | January 3, 2011 1:51 PM | Report abuse

@StuScott_Booyahs -- I'm pretty sure "Doubleuefwhy" WAS referring to Pittsburgh as lowest NHL attendance, not DC.

But to go back to Doubleuefwhy's comment, Pens only "winter game in town? Right, they also have the Steelers, who are about to enter the playoffs as the AFC's #2 seed...I'm sure they draw some attention their way as well.

Posted by: PaintDrinkingPete | January 3, 2011 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Question for Dan --

How do the local TV ratings for the Winter Classic compare to yesterday's Redskins game? I'm sure everyone watched the Dallas opener (the stat you mention) -- but I found a better use for my time yesterday afternoon, and I suspect I wasn't the only one.

Just curious, thanks.

Posted by: Wondering12 | January 3, 2011 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Demographics has almost everything to do with it. And, I'm not talking black vs. white, but the true melting pot that DC is and the fact that hockey, no matter how far south it makes inroads in the U.S., is not a worldwide sport.

All you need to do is see where the DC area ranks, nationwide, in World Cup ratings to see which sport is more popular among the masses, particularly for "big" events.

Still, the fact that
*The Caps will surpass 100+ straight sellouts
*Verizon is a den of hostility to road teams, including Pittsburgh and Philly
*20+ thousand made the trip to the WC! Believe me, you COULD tell. The shoe was on the other foot, for sure, as the last two minutes were filled with a lusty "road cheering" section that longtime Caps fans have (had) been used to hearing for so many years.

Posted by: wxdancer | January 3, 2011 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Pittsburgh likes winning teams, like most other cities. But we fought hard to keep the Pens in town (thanks in large part to Mario Lemieux). I've been a hockey fan for 35+ years (Pittsburgh, Buffalo & Montreal are favorites), but I appreciate hockey as a whole---so I didn't turn in my season tickets when the team was losing. I loved the Classic, and really enjoyed interacting with the Caps fans---and I was sitting in a sea of them! We traded the hockey cards (found in the seat cushions provided by the NHL) and talked hockey. More than one Caps fan complimented me on the friendliness of the people in Pittsburgh, and to that I say right back at ya! (It's hard to hate a team whose fans hates the Flyers as much as I do!) When the Classic is held in DC, I'll be there (with my cousin the Caps fan).

Posted by: Macathe | January 3, 2011 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Pittsburgh likes winning teams, like most other cities---though the Steelers might have drawn more viewers. But we fought hard to keep the Pens in town (thanks in large part to Mario Lemieux). I've been a hockey fan for 35+ years (Pittsburgh, Buffalo & Montreal are favorites), but I appreciate hockey as a whole---so I didn't turn in my season tickets when the team was losing. I loved the Classic, and really enjoyed interacting with the Caps fans---and I was sitting in a sea of them! We traded the hockey cards (found in the seat cushions provided by the NHL) and talked hockey. More than one Caps fan complimented me on the friendliness of the people in Pittsburgh, and to that I say right back at ya! (It's hard to hate a teams fans who hate the Flyers as much as I do!) When the Classic is held in DC, I'll be there (with my cousin the Caps fan).

Posted by: Macathe | January 3, 2011 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Demogrphics aside, TV ratings and attendance don't lie and the Capitals have clearly moved into the #2 slot in the DC area with respect to popularity. Yes, they will never pass the Redskins but five years ago who thought they would be more popular than the Wizards and Nationals which right now is not remotely debatable.

Posted by: hateisnotafamilyvalue | January 3, 2011 2:57 PM | Report abuse

The DC area is the DC area. If their are segments of the population that don't like hockey then so be it. It certainly doesn't discount the popularity of the sport in this town as a whole. It is currently very obvious that the Capitals are #2 in this town which given the state of the sport here 10-20 years ago is a minor miracle. Ted Leonsis has done a magnificent job in transforming Washington DC into a legitimate hockey town. C-A-P-S Caps! Caps! Caps!

Posted by: blackandred777 | January 3, 2011 3:21 PM | Report abuse

As a Baltimore Caps fan our rating really is remarkable when you consider history and the fact that it's a majority black city. We hate everything DC yet we love the Caps, so the credit has to go to Leonsis for marketing the team and making himself and everybody in the organization available to Bal radio stations on a consistent basis. When the Skipjacks left almost everybody in town stopped following hockey. Now alot of us go to more Caps home games then Orioles games.

Posted by: bukaki23 | January 3, 2011 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Imagine that...when your team isn't very good and they're threatening to relocate they weren't selling out. Who'd have thunk it?
The Pens' tickets are literally impossible to get in Pittsburgh unless you're going to StubHub or a scalper. We actually came to DC to see them in '07 for that reason(Laraque whooped Brashear in a fight).
There were nearly as many Pens' fans as Caps' but they(the Caps) were just turning the corner and getting better.
Hockey is just better when the teams geographically closest to each other are good(Caps, Pens, Flyers). It sort of reminds me of those battles in the early '90s right now.

Posted by: BigDaddy651 | January 3, 2011 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Baltimore is a better sports town than DC.

It's is a blue-collar town that roots for home teams while DC is full of transplants.

The Ravens statium would be perfect for a winter classic game.

Posted by: marylandmymaryland | January 5, 2011 11:16 AM | Report abuse

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