Hockey Night in Canada kicks off in record fashion

Leafs-Habs tilt most watched Prime East regular-season game ever
Hockey Night in Canada kicked off its 60th season with record-setting numbers. (CBC)

The 60th season of CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada kicked off in spectacular fashion on Saturday night.

On average, a record 3.3 million viewers tuned in to the CBC’s broadcast of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 2-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens, making it the most watched Prime East regular-season game ever on the network.

The game reached nearly 27 per cent of the population, or 9.2 million Canadians. The previous mark for viewership of a Leafs-Habs game was set in 2007 (2.85 million).

"Hockey is back in a big way and we’re proud to have connected Canadians to the sport they love while celebrating the start of the 60th season with a new in-studio team and format," Julie Bristow, Executive Director of Studio and Unscripted Programming, CBC, said in a release.

"These tremendous audiences are a reflection of not only our country’s passion for the game, but also of the world-class quality of our Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts that fans value and expect every Saturday night."

That passion was also evident earlier in the day.

The all-Canadian matinee tilt between the Senators and Winnipeg Jets — a 4-1 win for Ottawa — drew on average nearly 1.5 million viewers, setting a new standard for afternoon games.

"This is a fantastic start to the season and to the 60th year of Hockey Night in Canada," said Kirstine Stewart, Executive Vice President, English Services, CBC. "We’ve missed hockey as much as every fan across the country and we’re thrilled that so many Canadians joined us in celebrating the return of our game on Saturday."

Saturday night’s Prime West game — a 7-3 Anaheim Ducks’ win over the Vancouver Canucks — was also a smashing success, drawing 48 per cent more viewers than the Hockey Night in Canada West opener last year. A total of 6.1 million Canadians tuned in for at least one minute of the game.

Online platforms connect with fans

Fans also watched in droves through CBC’s various online platforms.

The brand new Hockey Night in Canada: 2nd Screen interactive experience launched Saturday, with 23,700 unique visitors participating and engaging with the feature throughout the day.

Fans who watched CBCSports.ca’s live streaming of the Montreal-Toronto contest helped contribute to some outstanding numbers; more than doubling the amount of views from last year’s Hockey Night in Canada debut between the Leafs and Habs of 28,793 views.

Anaheim-Vancouver was next in online success, drawing almost 34,700 viewers, and the Senators-Jets tilt brought in another 33,000.

Opening weekend in the NHL was equally as successful south of the border. NBC drew an overnight rating of 2.0 for its coverage of the Penguins-Flyers and Kings-Blackhawks games – its best in more than a decade.

Next up on Hockey Night in Canada is the classic Original Six rivalry as the Maple Leafs travel to New York to take on the Rangers at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, following Scotiabank Hockey Tonight at 6:30 p.m. ET.

The Battle of Alberta then takes centre stage at 10 p.m. ET, when the Calgary Flames welcome the Edmonton Oilers.