Somewhat surprisingly, NBC's opening-day ratings for the start of an NHL shortened season produced results -- the best in over a decade.
On Saturday, NBC scored the best national Nielsen household overnight NHL ratings in 11 years -- excluding the special Winter Classic games, which are played outside on or around New Year's Day.
NBC's big numbers are the best since ABC aired NHL, where on January 12, 2002, it posted a 2.3 rating number.
NBC's two regional games running between 3:30 and 6:15 p.m. EST scored a 67% rise over last year's regular-season game average of 1.2 household rating. NBC's games included Chicago Blackhawks beating last year's Stanley Cup champions Los Angeles Kings, 5-2; and Pittsburgh Penguins over the Philadelphia Flyers, 3-1.
The season-opening games were the highest on NBC since it begin airing NHL games in 2006.
Locally, the overnight ratings for Pittsburgh, with a 19.4 rating/38 share; Philadelphia, at a 7.8/16; and Chicago, with a 6.6/15, were NBC's best ever in those markets for the NHL regular season, excluding Winter Classics. Other big hockey markets: Buffalo scored a 6.6 /13 and Boston earned a 2.5/6.
The league's last lockup cancelled the entire 2004-2005 season. TV viewers were slow to return to national TV aired NHL games after hockey started up again the following season.