Without N.H.L., Olympic Hockey Takes Hit in Ratings and Interest

Without N.H.L., Olympic Hockey Takes Hit in Ratings and Interest

In the Kings’ locker room at Staples Center, the German forward Tobias Rieder was not watching the gold medal game after his team’s disappointing loss. A recent trade acquisition from the Arizona Coyotes, Rieder had celebrated Germany’s upset of Canada in the Olympic semifinals by wearing a gold jersey at practice on Friday, along with red tape on his black socks to mimic the German flag.

Before the Kings took the ice against the Oilers, he had expressed excitement for the gold medal matchup, even if he wasn’t entirely sure what time the final started. “I thought they played at four in the morning,” he said, inadvertently acknowledging a halfhearted interest shared by some fans.

“If I came across it when it was on, I would watch it,” the Kings fan Blaine Yanabu said, adding, “For the most part it wasn’t as exciting because N.H.L. players weren’t there.”

Yanabu admitted he was unaware that the Olympic gold medal game was taking place around the same time the Kings were to play the Oilers, or even which two countries were playing for the gold.


Tobias Rieder of the Los Angeles Kings expressed excitement after Germany qualified for the gold medal game, but he was unable to watch his country’s loss to the Russians. He hoped to at least get a chance to discuss the game with Draisaitl.

Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

He was, however, still buzzing about the women’s Olympic ice hockey final on Wednesday, in which the United States captured its first gold medal in the event since 1998 with a shootout victory over archrival Canada.

NBC announced that 2.9 million viewers had watched that showdown, making it the most-watched late-night program in the history of NBC Sports Network. But the figure was a marked decrease from the 4.9 million viewers who watched the same matchup in the 2014 gold medal game at the 2014 Sochi Games, which was broadcast on NBC.

Viewership for this year’s Olympic men’s tournament saw a similar decline. The United States men’s eight-round shootout victory over Russia in the 2014 Sochi Games established a record at the time for a hockey game on NBCSN, with 4.1 million viewers. But a 5-1 United States victory over Slovakia this year drew only a third of that number, a sign that rosters without N.H.L. stars and late-night broadcast times were the most obvious things keeping N.H.L. players and coaches — and others — from tuning in.

“I miss having the NHL players there but I don’t know that it needs it,” said David Profumo, a Kings fan who attended Saturday’s game in an Adam Deadmarsh Team U.S.A. jersey. “On the men’s side, it’s more even now, instead of Canada having all their big players out there. I mean, hockey is hockey.”

Deprived of an opportunity to watch Germany’s gold medal matchup against Russia from start to finish, Rieder said he hoped he would have a chance to at least discuss the game with Draisaitl before the Oilers left the arena. And maybe chat about what might have been in Pyeongchang.

“It’s pretty funny,” Rieder said. “We could be there playing in the finals with Germany, but we’ve got to play against each other.”

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