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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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Connor Bedard’s Blackhawks Debut Scores Record Viewership

  • Bedard’s NHL debut attracted 1.43 million average viewers on ESPN — the most ever for an NHL regular season game on cable, excluding the Winter Classic.
  • Tuesday’s game was also the largest opening day audience on cable, surpassing 2021’s Penguins-Lightning game on ESPN.
Chicago Blackhawks center Connor Bedard reacts to a goal by center Ryan Donato against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period at the PPG Paints Arena. Beard assisted on the goal to record his first NHL point in his league debut.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It took just one game for Connor Bedard to make an impact for the Chicago Blackhawks and the National Hockey League.

Bedard’s NHL debut on Tuesday night, a 4-2 road win for the Blackhawks against the Pittsburgh Penguins, attracted 1.43 million average viewers on ESPN — making it cable’s most-watched NHL regular season game ever, excluding the Winter Classic, per SportsMediaWatch. ESPN set the previous record in December 2000.

Tuesday’s game was also the largest opening day audience ever on cable, surpassing 2021’s Penguins-Lightning game on ESPN, as well as the largest for an opening day overall since the start of the lockout-shortened 2013 season.

The 18-year-old’s debut represented a 92% increase in viewership over last season’s opening game, a 3-1 win for the New York Rangers over the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

After being selected first overall in the 2023 NHL Draft, Bedard started a massive hype train that has culminated in an enormous increase in ticket sales for Chicago. The team sold $5.3 million worth of season ticket packages in the 12 hours after the Hawks won the NHL Draft Lottery and the right to pick the budding superstar.

Bedard immediately produced on the ice, recording an assist on Chicago’s first goal of the night.

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