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Olympic hockey final draws tremendous TV ratings

Sunday's Olympic gold-medal hockey game attracted a massive North American television audience, making it the most-viewed hockey game in the United States in 30 years and the most viewed show of any kind in Canadian history.

On NBC, the United States-Canada game drew an average of 27.6 million viewers and 15.2 percent of homes, the best such figures for hockey since Feb. 24, 1980, when Team USA beat Finland in Lake Placid for its last hockey gold medal.

It was the third-biggest U.S. hockey audience, trailing only that Finland game (32.8 million viewers) and the "Miracle on Ice'' two days earlier against the Soviets, which attracted 34.2 million, even on tape delay.

Sunday's viewership peaked at 34.8 million from 5:30 to 6 p.m. ET, an audience size only football usually can attract among American sports. The average viewership surpassed those for any day of the most recent World Series, NBA Finals or NCAA Final Four, as well as the Masters and the Daytona 500.

In Canada, an average of 16.6 million people watched on nine channels in eight languages, forming the largest television audience ever in that nation. About 80 percent of Canadians (26.5 million) watched at least some part of the game.

CTV play-by-play man Chris Cuthbert announced Sidney Crosby's game-winner this way:

"Crosby scores! Sidney Crosby! The golden goal! And Canada has once-in-a-lifetime Olympic gold! . . . These Golden Games have their crowning moment."

Later, 14.3 million Canadians watched the Closing Ceremony, making it the nation's second most-watched show ever.

The U.S. markets with the best ratings were Buffalo (32.6 percent of homes) and Pittsburgh (31.9), the NHL homes, respectively, of U.S. goalie Ryan Miller and Crosby.

New York was 16th among 55 markets with a rating of 19.0.

The game easily surpassed the audience for the 2002 final in Salt Lake City, which featured the same teams. That game averaged 17.1 million viewers and a 10.7 rating.

For the 17 nights of the Games, NBC averaged 24.4 million viewers and 13.8 percent of homes in prime time, roughly in line with what it told advertisers to expect. In Turin four years ago, where it had a less favorable time zone and a less successful U.S. team, NBC averaged 20.2 million viewers and a 12.2 rating.

The best local rating among 56 major markets for the 2010 Olympics was 21.9 in Salt Lake City. New York ranked 36th at 14.8. (Miami was last.)

NBC said 190 million people watched at least six minutes of the Olympics.

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