Winter Classic Ratings Down

The New York Rangers’ 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers was the least watched Winter Classic to date.

Ed Millerby Ed Miller

The Winter Classic is arguably the most over-hyped game of the NHL regular season but for five seasons the outdoor event has become a way to showcase its league, while competing for New Years Day supremacy.  It has become as much of a staple to the beginning of the year as the Mummer’s parade or a hangover but despite two of the biggest markets participating in the event this year, ratings for Monday’s event were the worst to date.

All of the nearly 47,000 fans at Citizens Bank Park were treated to an exciting game that came down to a potential game-tying penalty shot with 19 seconds left but the New York Rangers managed to hold off the Philadelphia Flyers to hand the home team its second loss in a Winter Classic.  Their first came two years ago at Fenway Park in Boston.  The NHL outdid itself once again for the big event – Patty Labelle, the Roots, fireworks and a fly over by two F18 jets – add in the snow flurries midway through and it was an event onlookers simply couldn’t look away from. 

But judging by the TV ratings that were released this week, the same couldn’t quite be said for the rest of America.  According to Sports Business Daily, this year’s Winter Classic had an overnight rating of 2.4, which was down significantly when compared to the 2.8 rating last year’s event in Pittsburgh drew.  Of course the ratings were through the roof in the New York (4.3 rating) and Philadelphia (11.9) markets.

So what exactly could be the cause of the decline, or is America simply growing tired of the event?

Though it is blown a little out of proportion for a game that still means just two points in the standings, it would seem as though it is one of the most enjoyed events for the typical NHL fan.  This year, the decline could have been due to the scheduling of the event.  Typically the event is on New Year’s Day but since it fell on a Sunday this year, the NHL didn’t want to compete with the NFL and thus moved it to Jan. 2, a day in which many had to head back to work after the holiday. 

Then there was the push back.  Due to weather conditions, the league was forced to push back the start time from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and that might have played into things.  But the NHL cannot control the weather.

The event continues to do well in showcasing the league, while helping to draw in a new crowd and since this year’s numbers are still good, we don’t expect the Winter Classic to be going away any time soon.  There have not been any hints as to where it might be next year but sooner or later the NHL is going to run out of cold cities and big markets but they’ll surely think up something good to look forward to in 2013!