Record-breaking audience for Hockey Night in Canada

Saturday night's showdown between the Leafs and Canadiens attracted the most regular season viewers ever for a CBC hockey broadcast.

There's nothing like aclassic matchup between the Leafs and Habs to pull a big audience.

According to initial reports from Nielsen Media Research, a record-breaking 2.81 million viewers tuned to CBC's Hockey Night in Canada this past Saturday to catch the highly anticipatedgame between the Leafs and Habs.

The broadcast represents the No. 1 regular-season audience in the show's history since viewer recording began in 1989.

"What better way to end another successful regular season for CBC's Hockey Night in Canada and create excellent momentum heading into the NHL playoffs this Wednesday, than with a record-setting audience," said Scott Moore, executive director of CBC Sports.

Viewership for Saturday night's gamewas a big jumpfromthe previous record for a regular-season broadcast for Hockey Night in Canada this year. That game, on March 17, was another tilt between theToronto and Montrealrivals andbrought in an average audience of 1.6 million viewers.

The only event to come close to generating the same numbers as Saturday's game was the Heritage Classic between Montreal and Edmonton in 2003. That chilly outdoor game played at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium brought in 2.75 million viewers.

The one other broadcast to break the two million mark was Wayne Gretzky's final game at Madison Square Garden onApril 18, 1999. That farewell appearance garnered an audience of 2.16 million.