Sunday's Olympic gold medal hockey game between the U.S. and Canada attracted the third-largest TV audience for a hockey game in our nation's history and the biggest since 1980.

NBC said the game averaged 27.6 million viewers and 15.2 percent of homes (including 30 percent of those with a TV in use).

The only larger hockey audiences in the United States were for the tape-delayed game against the Soviet Union in Lake Placid on Feb. 22, 1980 (34.2 million) and the game for the gold medal two days later against Finland (32.8 million).

Sunday's game easily surpassed the 17.1 million for the 2002 gold medal game, which also was played in North America and also featured the U.S. and Canada.

The 15.2 rating was the highest for a hockey game in this nation since the 23.2 for that game against Finland. (The U.S.-Soviet "Miracle on Ice" game had a rating of 23.9.)

The audience peaked Sunday from 5:30 to 6 p.m. at 34.8 million viewers and an 18.6 rating.

Here are some recent events that averaged smaller TV audiences than Sunday's hockey game:

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2010 Grammy Awards (25.9 million)

2010 Rose Bowl (24.0 million)

2009 World Series Game 4 (22.8 million)

2009 NCAA Basketball Championship (17.6 million)

2009 NBA Finals Game 4 (16.0 million)

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2010 Daytona 500 (16.0 million)

2009 Masters final round (14.3 million)

Here are the top 25 metered markets for Sunday (rating/share):

1. Buffalo, 32.6/51

2. Pittsburgh, 31.9/50

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3. Detroit, 26.9/47

4. Minneapolis, 26.4/53

5. Milwaukee, 24.5/43

6. Boston, 24.1/46

7. Chicago, 23.5/41

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8. Columbus, 22.3/37

9. Denver, 22.2/42

10. Philadelphia, 20.9/35

11. West Palm Beach, 20.3/33

12. Kansas City, 19.5/35

13. St. Louis, 19.4/39

14. Seattle, 19.3/45

15. Cincinnati, 19.2/31

16. New York, 19.0/36

17. Hartford, 18.5/30

18. Providence, 18.4/34

T19. Salt Lake City, 18.3/38

T19. Cleveland, 18.3/32

T21. Washington, D.C., 18.1/33

T21. Baltimore, 18.1/32

23. Ft. Myers, 18.0/34

T24. Austin, 17.1/34

T24. Indianapolis, 17.1/29

Photo: AP