Rangers. Bruins. NBC.
With the Rangers poised to encounter the Bruins Sunday on NBC, I wondered whether there has been any big post-Olympics bounce in the network's ratings for the sport.
Answer: Sort of. Maybe. A little.
Granted, the sample is extremely small - only two games.
The March 7 Red Wings-Blackhawks game averaged 1.0 percent of U.S. homes, up 25 percent from the 0.8 for a Bruins-Rangers game on a comparable Sunday last year.
The March 14 Capitals-Blackhawks game averaged an 0.8, the same figure as a Flyers-Rangers game on a comparable weekend in 2009.
Here's the thing, though: Regardless of what the ratings on NBC, Versus and local channels show for the rest of the season, that is only one element in determining the value of the NHL's participation in the Olympics.
Ratings bump or not, the Games enhanced the brand of the NHL and its stars, and that in theory leads to more exposure on media outlets such as ESPN, more tickets sold and more merchandise sold.
Perfect example: The other night on the late SportsCenter from L.A., the Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane appeared on the set wearing their gold and silver medals, respectively, and introducing the top 10 plays.
Chances of that happening during a Blackhawks visit to the Kings last year at the same time: zero.
Speaking of Sunday's Rangers-Bruins game, NBC will feature a "Star Cam" focused on every shift of Sean Avery on its Web site, NBCSports.com.