The abbreviated 2013 NHL season got off to a strong start on NBC.
Regional NHL action featuring either Blackhawks/Kings or Penguins/Flyers earned a 2.0 overnight rating on NBC Saturday afternoon, the highest for a non-Winter Classic regular season game since regional action on ABC in January 2002 (2.3).
Including the Winter Classic, the 2.0 is the sixth-highest for a regular season NHL game on NBC since the network began airing games in the 2005-06 season.
Saturday’s strong start should help mitigate the cancellation of the Winter Classic, typically the highest rated regular season NHL game of a given season. The 2012 Winter Classic earned a 2.4 overnight, not much higher than Saturday’s opener.
The Winter Classic was one of two NBC games canceled due to the NHL owners’ five-month lockout of players.