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'Ice Bowl' proves to be hot ticket for league, NBC
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'If the opportunity presents itself, for sure I'd do it again': Crosby
Jan 03, 2008 04:30 AM


The NHL's outdoor game in Buffalo was called a publicity stunt in some quarters, but it paid dividends for the league and NBC.

The New Year's Day game between Pittsburgh and Buffalo attracted the highest American audience for a regular-season NHL game in more than a decade.

According to Nielsen overnight ratings, the game scored a 2.6 rating, meaning it was viewed in almost 3 million households.

That's the highest rating in the U.S. since Fox scored a 3.0 rating in 1996. It's also more than double the average regular-season rating on NBC last season.

The game held its own against some of the U.S. college competition. CBS scored a 2.7 rating for the Gator Bowl, which shared a 1 p.m. start with the outdoor game.

Most of the U.S. sports audience was watching the Capital One Bowl on ABC, which also started at 1 p.m. It registered a 9.9 overnight rating. Canadian ratings were unavailable.

Given the success of the "Ice Bowl," more may be on the way.

Sidney Crosby said he'd love to do it again. The NHL, NBC and the Winter Classic's main sponsor, Pepsi, all sound like they want to do it again.

And more than 70,000 fans never got tired despite the early-morning tailgating and constant stoppages for floods and ice repairs.

So, all that's left is to set a date.

"If the opportunity presents itself, for sure I'd do it again," Crosby told the Star's Kevin McGran yesterday in Pittsburgh, where the Leafs face the Penguins tonight. "It was a pretty cool experience for all the players and all the fans. We'll see what happens."

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said after the game that another outdoor event was something the league "certainly will be looking at doing in the future."

"We're delighted by the success of this historic event," Ken Schanzer, president of NBC Sports said in a statement.

And for the title sponsor, AMP Energy drink, the game "exceeded our expectations," John Stamatis, sports group manager for Pepsi-Cola North America, said in an email to the Star.

With 240 accredited media there – on par with that of a Stanley Cup final – the league got mid-season exposure like it never had before.

The game played to favourable reviews in the American media, with most agreeing that as gimmicky as the event might have been, it was still better to have been seen than not. USA Today had it on the front of its sports section. The New York Times sent a reporter.

As much as the game was about eyes on a TV screen, it was also about dollars. The Buffalo convention and visitors' bureau estimated $5 million in direct revenue from the event.

 

 

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