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NHL All-Star Game posts lowest viewership among big sports in North America

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Photo credit:Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Barden
3 months ago
There is plenty of growth needed by the NHL if they want the success they desire, but seeing this shows just how much the league needs to be better.
When the All-Star festivities roll around, the fun usually begins. The best players among each league come together to compete in a skills competition before playing against each other in a game the next day.
It’s great for the children growing up, dreaming of playing the sport as a career. It’s also a fun event for both the fans within the city it’s being hosted in, as well as the players and their families who spend the weekend there.
For the NHL, though, it’s always been an awkward weekend. While it’s an event some like to watch, I personally think it’s a lot to ask of players who are already playing through a grueling 82-game season.
Add that together with the weird events the NHL had this year, that were chopped up for TV, and it makes a recipe for the least-viewed All-Star Game, even falling behind MLS.
According to Sports Business Journal, the NHL All-Star Game only had 1.15 million viewers this year in the United States, yet another drop in viewership within the last five years. Although this is a US-based rating, it’s safe to say similar ratings are coming out of Canada.
I’d like to start off by saying that it’s quite shocking that the NHL sits behind MLS. Although soccer was invented in 1863, 12 years before hockey, in 1875, the NHL still has a lot of time over MLS in terms of when the two formed as leagues.
The National Hockey League began in 1917 while the MLS was founded in 1993 — 76 years apart. The league has had three quarters of a century to grow the game. How they are getting shockingly low numbers now, though, is beyond me, but I wouldn’t say it’s surprising.
MLS is turning into a quickly rising sport within North America. A number of high-profile soccer players have made the move from Europe — creating a much more competitive league. That, in turn, also brings more fans into the league, since they already enjoy watching European teams.
The NBA, NFL, and MLB are clearly the three biggest sports in the United States and possibly even Canada. Seeing these ratings, though, makes me beg the question — do these numbers even matter to the NHL?
When it comes to the All-Star festivities, many enjoy the skills competition most. The NBA has the Slam Dunk Competition, the MLB has the Home Run Derby, and the NHL has the Breakaway Challenge.
Each of these events bring the most entertainment because players are showing how good they really are at their sport. This past Breakaway Challenge, although it was fun, had a disappointing ending which likely left viewers unsatisfied.
If you remember (or if you didn’t watch), Alex Pietrangelo won the event without scoring a goal. Trevor Zegras lost the event, but pulled off one of the best goals we’ve ever witnessed at a skills competition. I don’t understand it, really.
The Skills Competition and All-Star Game itself both have different TV ratings, but it’s clear that one is better than the other. And I honestly can’t seem to find one reason as to why the NHL All-Star game is worth watching. The skills competition is where all the fun is.
In the grand scheme of things, though, I don’t believe these viewership numbers matter to the NHL that much. Obviously they are worth something, but I’d be increasingly worried if the Stanley Cup playoffs weren’t attracting that many fans.
However, that’s not the case, as this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs were historic for TV.
The biggest goal for the NHL right now is growing the game and contributing to ridding of the toxic culture that the sport carries. If they are all that concerned about the All-Star Game TV numbers, then by all means do something about it and change a few things.
But it shouldn’t be high on the list of the changes needed at this moment.
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