The obvious thing everyone has said about the end of the 2012-13 NHL Lockout is that the Canadian fans will come back. Some American fans will be reticent to return, maybe some small markets won't be willing to show up or watch on television immediately. The folks north of our border, however, are in the bag. They're ride or die, watching no matter how long you take away the sport. It's their game, after all.
Well, they were right. Hockey Night in Canada returned with record numbers on Saturday night. The 7 p.m. ET game between the two worst teams in the Eastern Conference last season -- the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens -- drew a record 3.3 million viewers for that timeslot. The previous record was also Habs-Leafs back in April of 2007. Never before has a regular season game in Canada's most famous sporting timeslot drawn that many viewers. CBC claims that 9.2 million Canadians -- 27 percent of the country -- watch at least a minute of the show. Another 80,000 people streamed the game live online. Yikes.
The other games were less obscene, but no less impressive. 1.49 million viewers tuned into Hockey Night's season premiere, the 3 p.m. ET Senators-Jets game. 1.47 million watched the Ducks-Canucks game. Both were well above the typical audiences for those timeslots last season, with around 30,000 people each tuning into the live stream. Canadian hockey fans... they're in the bag.