The LA Kings’ thrilling win over the Chicago Blackhawks last night was the most-watched NHL game ever on NBC’s cable sports outlet, but the numbers reflect the sport’s continued niche status in Los Angeles. Game 7 of a for-the-ages Western Conference Final – in which the Kings ousted the defending champions 5-4 with a overtime win in the Windy City to move on to the Stanley Cup Final — drew a 3.17 overnight rating; that’s the best for any NHL game in the network’s 2 1/2-year history, topping Game 3 of last year’s Cup Final. It also pulled a ridiculous 22.7 HH rating in Chicago but only a 4.8 in LA. Both were high-water marks for the NHL on NBCSN.
The win put the LA Kings into the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in three seasons, following the first championship in franchise history in 2012. They’ll go against the New York Rangers, who are playing for the Cup for the first time in 20 years. That means we’ll get the first LA-NY championship tilt in the Big 4 U.S. sports since the Dodgers beat the Yankees in the 1981 World Series. One might think the NHL and NBC, which is airing the first two and last three (if necessary) Cup Final games, would be beaming about that today. But execs might have been secretly rooting for Chicago, an Original Six NHL team with a much larger local and North American fan base. Ratings for last year’s Cup Final between the Blackhawks and Boston Bruins — another team with a wide following — clobbered the 2012 Kings-New Jersey Devils series.