Hockey gives CBC record-breaking ratings


'Hockey Night' nabs 2.25 mil viewers; 1.1 mil for 'Blades' results show.

TORONTO -- Hockey players throwing punches at one another, hockey players on figure skates: the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. is getting its best ratings in years from TV on thin ice.

The Canadian pubcaster's "Hockey Night in Canada," a Saturday night telecast of NHL games on air since 1952, drew a record audience of 2.25 million total viewers for its season debut match-up of the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Ottawa Senators, with Carrie Underwood's new hubby Mike Fisher leading a losing Ottawa side.

"It's in our blood for sure, and I've never heard our anthem sung as loudly as I've heard it at a hockey game," Kirstine Stewart, interim executive vp of English TV at the CBC, said after Canada recently beating Team USA to win the hockey gold medal at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games put a fire under NHL TV ratings.

"It's one of the few things a whole country can truly get behind," she added of Canada's national pastime.

 The debut numbers for "HNIC" are ones the CBC usually attracts to early Stanley Cup round playoff games, and marked a 35% jump in ratings from the 2009-10 debut of the NHL games broadcast.

And the later double-header game out west last Saturday night between the Vancouver Canucks and the Calgary Flames managed 1.43 million viewers.

The CBC also iced a cool 1.1 million viewers Monday night for the latest results show for "Battle of the Blades," a competition series from Insight Productions that has former NHL tough guys mastering graceful ice dance routines with Olympic figure skating stars.

The previous night's performance show drew upwards of 1.5 million viewers, putting the series into hit territory for Canadian primetime.