NEW YORK -- The Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic™, one of the cornerstones of the NHL's big event strategy, continued the League's business momentum while driving substantial growth and fan engagement on North American television, via digital platforms such as NHL.com, through social media platforms like Twitter, at retail outlets and at a sold-out McMahon Stadium in Calgary. The NHL Heritage Classic also set an NHL event record for both total sponsorship revenue and activation, surpassing the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic®.
Other highlights included the event delivering the fourth-largest audience ever for an NHL game on VERSUS in the U.S. at that time and big audiences for CBC and RDS. The NHL Heritage Classic led NHL.com to its best Sunday performance of the season and was the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter in Canada. Additionally, merchandise sales for the outdoor game were the third-largest in history for an NHL event.
"The Heritage Classic was a tremendous triumph for the NHL and it was gratifying to see our fans and the business community embrace the event so enthusiastically," said NHL COO John Collins. "Our big event strategy is activating our fan base like never before, while helping the League achieve five straight years of revenue growth. Delivering our third successful major event in just 51 days is a great way to lead into the stretch run of the season and our ultimate event, the Stanley Cup Playoffs. "
CBC, RDS ENJOY STRONG BROADCAST IN CANADA
The CBC broadcast of the NHL Heritage Classic averaged 2.078 million viewers, up 7 percent over its season average of 1.936 million for HNIC early telecasts. Viewership for this year's NHL Heritage Classic game on CBC peaked at 2.9 million viewers, while French language RDS peaked at 1.6 million viewers.
U.S. VIEWERS DEMONSTRATE DEMAND FOR OUTDOOR NHL HOCKEY
Capping off a full day of televised hockey with "Hockey Day in America" on NBC, the NHL Heritage Classic on VERSUS Sunday night averaged 608,000 viewers, which at that time made it the fourth-most-watched regular-season game in the network's history. The game, which peaked at more than 700,000 viewers between 7-7:15 p.m. ET, was the most-watched regular-season game between two Canadian teams on U.S. cable since NHL viewership became available by Nielsen in the 1993-94 season. The 608,000 viewers also marks a 95 percent increase from the 2010-11 NHL regular-season average on VERSUS (311,000 viewers).
MOST WATCHED NHL REGULAR-SEASON GAMES IN VERSUS HISTORY AS OF FEB. 20 (average viewers)
1. 12/14/2010 Pittsburgh at Philadelphia 750,000
2. 10/7/2010 Philadelphia at Pittsburgh 730,000
3. 3/22/2010 Pittsburgh at Detroit 622,000
4. 2/20/2011 2011 NHL Heritage Classic: Montreal at Calgary 608,000
HOCKEY DAY IN AMERICA SCORES FOR NBC
With regional doubleheaders and the national Game of the Week, Hockey Day in America on NBC recorded its highest overnight ratings of the season for indoor hockey coverage with a 1.2. This marks an 83 percent increase when compared to the same weekend in 2009 when the Washington Capitals hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins (NBC was airing the Olympics in 2010 during the same week).
NBC Sports' coverage of the Penguins-Blackhawks, the second game of Hockey Day in America which went head-to-head with the Daytona 500, was watched by 1.9 million viewers, making it the most-watched non-Winter Classic NHL regular-season game in five years.
OUTDOOR GAME DRIVES STRONG WORLDWIDE DEMAND ON NHL.COM
* The 2011 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic™ drove this season's top Sunday in terms of unique visitors and visits from Canada
* Web traffic was up significantly in Canada, the U.S. and internationally over a typical regular-season Sunday
* It was the top Sunday this season for international page views on NHL.com
ASSORTMENT AND DEMAND DRIVE MERCHANDISE SALES
The substantial merchandise sales for the NHL Heritage Classic helped it rank third overall in sales for an NHL event. Sales also were 180 percent higher than the NHL Winter Classic in Buffalo and up 18 percent over the NHL Winter Classic in Chicago.
The top selling items were Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff jerseys; the Reebok cold weather knit hat; and the official puck, event scarf, game programs and the Reebok hooded sweatshirt.
SPONSOR ACTIVATION SETS NHL RECORD
The NHL aggressively and creatively promoted the 2011 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic™ as one of the League's major tentpole events and corporate sponsors responded in a big way. Sponsor revenue and activation exceeded the recent NHL Winter Classic® becoming the highest revenue-generating event in NHL history.
Among the Canadian institutions partnering with the League for the event were Tim Hortons, Canadian Tire, BlackBerry and Scotiabank.
NHL FANS AGAIN PROVE SOCIALLY-SAVVY
As an indication of the interest in the event in Canada, #HeritageClassic was the top organic trend on Twitter in Canada throughout the entire game and #HeritageClassic peaked at the No. 3 trending topic worldwide.
THIRD SUCCESSFUL EVENT IN JUST 51 DAYS
The success of the NHL Heritage Classic comes on the heels of the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic®, which saw all sponsorship opportunities sold out and a 22 percent increase in viewership for the U.S. broadcast on NBC. The recent NHL All-Star Game was also a huge success for the League, earning significant increases in viewership in Canada and the United States, a 42 percent increase in sponsorship revenue over the last All-Star Game in the U.S., an all-time record for video starts on NHL.com and the best retail performance for a U.S.-based All-Star Game in seven years.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
"Sunday's Heritage Classic proved that, until further notice, you can't get enough of a good thing." – ESPN.com
"As an event, it was a massive success." – Calgary Sun
"If there was ever a compelling case for the NHL outdoor format to be expanded, it was made by yesterday's Heritage Classic game in Calgary…for the 40,000 people on site, and probably the millions who watched in Canada, it was special enough. And that's why we need more of them." – SI.com
"The NHL ended its outdoor adventure for another year with a successful return to Canada." -- Reuters
"The idea to bring NHL games outdoors has been the best and most innovative idea a major sports league has had." -- NESN