SOCHI, Russia — The numbers are in for the thrilling USA-Russia men’s hockey game, and they’re huge.
NBC Sports Network says 4.1 million people in the United States tuned into the Americans’ dramatic 3-2 victory, a record number for a hockey game on the channel.
When the game when to a shootout, 6.4 million people tuned in to watch T.J. Oshie score four times to lead Team USA to the win. The ratings are even more impressive considering the game aired on a Saturday morning back home.
Oshie was one of the more anonymous players on the American roster, a very good player for the NHL’s St. Louis Blues, but by no means a star.
But he’s added more than 150,000 followers to his Twitter account — @OSH74 — and received a tweet of congratulations from President Obama since his big moment.
There’s the rub for the NHL. Some team owners aren’t happy with shutting down their league for two weeks and let their star players risk injury playing in the Olympics.
But for a league that has struggled to gain a foothold in the crowded American sports market place, the Olympics represent the biggest opportunity to showcase its talent to a mass audience.
And it’s not just on Team USA. A casual fan that watched USA-Russia may have seen Pavel Datsyuk’s electric play and decide to tune in when he’s playing for the Detroit Red Wings after the games.
The players have spoken. The fans have spoken. Now it will be interesting to see if the television numbers do anything to change the minds of some owners who are determined to end the relationship.