By Jeff Hancock
The N.H.L.’s Western Conference stars are shining bright at the Olympics games.
The preliminary round match-up between the United States and Canada was the second most watched program in the history of MSNBC. The game pulled in an average of 8.22 million viewers. The number nearly eclipsed the network’s highest viewer total of 8.23 million from the night President Obama won the 2008 election.
The broadcast was the most watched hockey game in the United States since May 10, 1973, which was the series clinching game of the Stanley Cup championship between the Montreal Canadiens and the Chicago Blackhawks. In Canada, the game was the most watched sports program in Canadian television history.
The game’s high ratings were due to the back-and-forth excitement and a close score. Many Western Conference players took part in key plays. American defenseman Brian Rafalski, from the Western Conference’s Detroit Red Wings, scored the first two goals for Team U.S.A. Rafalski has four goals in the American’s last two games. A crucial empty net goal to seal the game for Team U.S.A. was scored by the Vancouver Canucks’ Ryan Kesler. Across the border, the San Jose Sharks’ Dany Heatley scored for Team Canada.
Overall, the NHL’s Western Conference players have seen tremendous success in the stats column at the Olympic Games. Canada’s Jerome Iginla, of the Calgary Flames, leads all Olympic hockey players with five goals. Heatley leads in overall points with six. Rafalski leads the Games in points by a defenseman. Kesler has the top face-off percentage of any player. Team Canada’s Jonathon Toews from the Chicago Blackhawks has the top plus/minus rating with plus-seven and is tied for the lead in assists with five.
The 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver has produced some of the most exciting hockey fans have seen in a long time. There is only greater hockey action on the way as the top teams battle to reach the gold medal game. One thing is for sure, the Western Conference’s top stars have shot to the top of the stats columns on the world’s biggest stage and some of the players will be coming home with a little more weight around their necks.
By Jeff Hancock