A few weeks ago, before the playoffs started, I speculated that the Toronto Maple Leafs could become the most-covered, most-watched hockey team ever. Given their cache in Canada, even when they're bad, and a new media universe the super serves audiences and over-covers everything, I expected records. What I didn't expect was a competitive series, even a classic one, which saw Game 7 on Monday night create a ratings bonanza in Canada.
The CBC drew 5.1 million viewers on average for the Leafs shattering collapse on Monday. That was easily a record for a first round game in Canada. The previous record? Game 6 of the series, which scored 4.5 million viewers. Before that, it was Game 6 between the Maple Leafs and the Senators in the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The game also set a record for a Maple Leafs playoff broadcast on CBC. That record was set (before Game 6 broke it) by the infamous "Gretzky game," Game 7 of the 1993 Western Conference Final. That legendary match drew 4.27 million viewers.
The average audience is impressive, but when you break it down in terms of peak audiences, things start to get really weird. According to a CBC press release, 8.2 million people were watching CBC at 10:04 p.m. ET when Patrice Bergeron scored the overtime winner. That's approximately 23 percent of the entire country watching one event. For a television event to draw 23 percent of the American population, it would need (again, approximately) 72.1 million viewers.
CBC, buoyed by having three Canadian teams at their disposal, had a strong first round. The network averaged 2.03 million viewers during the opening round, up 17 percent from 2012. The numbers were carried by Toronto vs. Boston, which averaged 3.53 million over seven games. The Senators vs. Canadiens series, which ended in five games, averaged 2.04 million viewers.