Game 7 watched by 8.5M in U.S.

NEW YORK -- The Boston Bruins' Stanley Cup-clinching Game 7 victory over the Vancouver Canucks stands as the most-watched National Hockey League game on American television since 1973.

The Game 7 victory was seen by about 8.5 million people on NBC, the Nielsen Co. said. That's the biggest audience since a 1973 playoff contest between the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks.

A winner-takes-all game between a Boston franchise that hadn't won professional hockey's championship in 39 years and a team that has never won the Stanley Cup proved a real draw, said NHL spokesman Frank Brown.

"You had the international competition of a team based in Canada against the league's longest-standing U.S.-based team," Brown said. "You had the rivalry of an East Coast port city against a West Coast port city. You had two of our most passionate fan bases tweeting, blogging and Facebooking like crazy. The spotlight was bright and the energy was remarkable."

Sports on TV in general have been attracting bigger audiences in recent years with the rapid expansion of high-definition television and large-screen sets. That's a particularly important factor in hockey, where the greater clarity enables fans to follow the puck much more easily than in the past.

Still, hockey remains a relatively minor sport in the U.S.: That final game still finished behind a summer rerun of "NCIS" in the ratings.

A ratings point represents 1,147,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 114.7 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.

For the week of June 13-19, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: "America's Got Talent" (Tuesday), NBC, 12.59 million; "The Voice," NBC, 12.34 million; "NCIS," CBS, 9.02 million; NHL Stanley Cup Finals: Boston vs. Vancouver, Game 7, NBC, 8.54 million; "The Mentalist," CBS, 8.26 million; "NCIS: Los Angeles," CBS, 8.11 million; "The Bachelorette," ABC, 7.88 million; "So You Think You Can Dance" (Wednesday), Fox, 7.59 million; "60 Minutes," CBS, 7.57 million; "Hawaii Five-0," CBS, 7.56 million.