NBC's coverage of the Game 7 battle for Lord Stanley's Cup lit the most lamps with U.S. viewers for a National Hockey League telecast in almost four decades.
The June 15 telecast of Boston's 4-0 win over Vancouver averaged 8.54 million watchers was the largest NHL audience since NBC netted 9.41 million watchers for Game 6 between Montreal and Chicago on May 10, 1973, according to Nielsen data. Boston's triumph, keyed by the Conn Smythe MVP performance from goaltender Tim Thomas, was the Bruins' first NHL championship since 1972.
Wednesday night's contest topped NBC's coverage of the decisive Game 6 of last year's Stanley Cup Final in which the Chicago Blackhawks hoisted the famed trophy for the first time since 1961 by taking out the Philadelphia Flyers. That game skated before 8.28 million on June 9, 2010.
NBC's June 15 audience, coupled with 8.76 million watchers on CBC -- the best ever for an NHL contest and second overall behind the 8.96 million for the 2002 Olympic men's gold medal game between USA and Canada -- and 1.04 million more on French-language network RDS, gave Game 7 an average of 18.3 million, the most ever in North America, according to the National Hockey League.
Comcast controls the NBC Sports Group under its NBCUniversal programming arm.
NBC's five-game audience -- Games 1, 2, 5, 6, 7 -- averaged a 3.1 rating/6 share and 5.31 million watchers, the best for a U.S. network Stanley Cup Final featuring a Canadian team in 38 years, since the 6.8/15 and 7.4 million for three games during the aforementioned Canadians-Blackhawks series in 1973.
The 2011 Stanley Cup Final -- Games 3 and 4 were on Versus -- averaged a 2.7 rating/5 share and 4.6 million viewers, down from a 2.8/5 share and 5.17 million watchers for the 2010 Cup final.
Still, Bruins-Canucks surpassed the 2.2/4 and 3.3 million watchers for ABC and ESPN's coverage of the 2004 series between Tampa Bay and Calgary by 39% in becoming the most-watched combined network/cable Stanley Cup Final involving a team from north of the border. Moreover, it dwarfed the last clash of this kind: the 2007 series matching Ottawa and Anaheim, which averaged 1.76 million watchers by 160%.
The 2.76 million viewers on Versus for Game 3 made it the most-watched Stanley Cup Final game featuring a Canadian club on U.S. cable since Game 7 of the 1994 series between Vancouver and the New York Rangers. All told, Versus scored the second most-watched postseason on cable in nine years, behind only its 2010 playoff campaign.