Fans consumed NHL hockey in record numbers during In the first five days of the 2009-10 regular season as the National Hockey League roared back into action, building off the strong momentum it built during the 2008-09 regular season and 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
With the season less than a week old, more than 420,000 fans have already attended NHL games. Through the first 25 games this season arenas continued to be filled. Of the 21 games played in North America, 19 were sellouts.
Of the teams who have played in North America, 17 have posted attendance numbers above or even with the comparable number of games from last season, while eight teams have yet to play their home opener.
More than 250,000 fans attended NHL games on Saturday alone, as the League played 15 games in 15 cities in four countries on two continents. NHL teams played to 99 percent capacity during opening weekend.
Crowds flocked to both the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm and Hartwall Arena in Helsinki to the tune of 51,282 fans for the four games.
Those who couldn't make it to the arena were following the action on other platforms: Versus dropped the puck on its fifth season of NHL coverage with the a doubleheader that was most-watched opening night in network history. The game between the Washington Capitals
and Boston Bruins
on Oct. 1 earned the highest regular-season rating ever for a game on Versus, which was one of the top-rated cable networks in all four local markets during the time period.
For its two-game coverage of Compuware/NHL Premiere 2009, Versus saw viewership increase 51 percent from its two-game coverage from Europe in 2008.
Viewership has also been strong north of the border: With the deployment of a new viewership-measurement system in Canada, the 57th season of CBC’s Hockey Night In Canada opened on Thursday with its largest opening night audience. RDS opened the season on Thursday up more than 12% in viewers from the audience for the network’s first Montreal Canadiens
broadcast last season.
With final numbers still being reported, local NHL rightsholders also are posting records.
For the Bruins’ home game on Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes
, NESN earned the highest season-opening telecast in its 25 years of covering the team. NESN was the highest-rated network in the Boston market during the game, beating all broadcast and cable networks.
On Fox Sports Pittsburgh, the rating for the New York Rangers
-Pittsburgh Penguins game on Friday night, when the Penguins raised their Stanley Cup championship banner to the Mellon Arena rafters, was the highest ever for a Penguins season-opening game telecast on the network.
Fans also flocked to NHL.com for extensive video and editorial coverage of Compuware/NHL Premiere in Europe, game highlights, player profiles, game reports and exclusive blogs.
Thanks to unparalleled content, unique visitors to NHL.com through the first four days of October were up 68 percent compared with the same period last year. Video starts for NHL.com rose an incredible 130% during the first week of the season compared to the first week of last season. Through the opening weekend of the season, orders for NHL GameCenter Live were up 70 percent from the same timeframe last season.
Overall merchandise sales for the four regular-season games in Europe during Compuware/NHL Premiere 2009 increased 52% from the comparable numbers in 2008. Per capita spending rose 73%. In Helsinki,, where Chicago played Florida, sales on Friday and Saturday broke the Hartwall Arena-record for highest merchandise sales ever for a hockey game at that venue. The previous record was held by the 2003 World Ice Hockey Championships.
Registrations on NHL.com for an opportunity to purchase tickets to the 2010 Bridgestone/NHL Winter Classic surpassed 307,000. That eclipsed the number of registrations for last season’s game by 25 percent. Registrations closed on Oct. 5.
If each person who registered was given the right to purchase 2 tickets, the NHL could host 15 Bridgestone/NHL Winter Classic games in Fenway Park and still not meet the ticket demand.