NBC Sports Network may have something here with this "Rivalry Wednesday" series.
Last night's tilt between the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild, which ended with the Wild winning in a shootout, drew 827,000 viewers to NBCSN, the second-best number for the network this season, behind only last Wednesday's Bruins-Rangers game, which drew 956,000 viewers. It's the second-most watched regular-season game since VERSUS became NBC Sports Network, and the third-most watched game on cable since the start of the 2011-12 season.
The ratings were likely driven by the once again potent Chicago market: the Windy City hit a 5.12 rating, a record for NBCSN/VERSUS/OLN in the market. In Minneapolis/St. Paul, the game drew a similarly regular season record-breaking 4.8 rating. The game peaked from 10:30-10:45 p.m. ET with 1.05 million viewers.
Coincidentally, Chicago and Minnesota provided then-VERSUS with one of their best numbers last season. The infamous shootout game where Patrick Kane pulled off all those crazy dekes on the game-winner drew 540,000 viewers in December 2011.
The NHL on NBC Sports Network is averaging 504,000 viewers through seven telecasts so far during the 2013 NHL season. Through seven telecasts last season (albeit in October), VERSUS was averaging just 304,000.
2013 NHL on NBC Sports Network Ratings
Sunday, Jan. 20
10 p.m. ET, Chicago vs. Phoenix - 260,000 viewers
Monday, Jan. 21
7:30 p.m. ET, Detroit vs. Columbus - 390,000 viewers
Tuesday, Jan. 22
7:30 p.m. ET, Philadelphia vs. New Jersey - 449,000 viewers
Wednesday, Jan. 23
7:30 p.m. ET, Boston vs. NY Rangers - 956,000 viewers
Sunday, Jan. 27
8 p.m. ET, Minnesota vs. St. Louis - 401,000 viewers
Tuesday, Jan. 29
7:30 p.m. ET, NY Islanders vs. Pittsburgh - 245,000 viewers
Wednesday, Jan. 30
8 p.m. ET, Chicago vs. Minnesota - 827,000 viewers