Hockey's back in a big way and -- not coincidentally -- so are the listeners at the Team 1200.
The numbers told a rather obvious story for the all-sports radio station in BBM Canada's fall ratings book. The Team's overall market share rose to 3.6, nearly double the 2.0 it posted in fall 2004, when the NHL lockout was in full swing.
It's also a mighty leap from the spring 2005 book, which saw the Team's share at 2.3. Perhaps most importantly, there was major growth in the station's key male 25-54 demographic, where it pulled an 8.1 share, up from 6.2 a year ago.
Team 1200 station manager Dave Mitchell didn't hedge for a second in supplying the major reason for the turnaround.
"It's pretty clear there's a direct relationship between hockey (and ratings)," he said. "You can draw a straight line between the two."
An added bonus: The Senators are off to one of the best starts in NHL history.
"There's been a lot of Senators frenzy going on already," said Mitchell. "We saw it when we first put our (ad) sales package together (before the season).
"We sold out pretty quickly."
The best might be yet to come. If the Senators make it deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs, all the excitement from it could land smack in the middle of the May-June spring ratings period.
"That would be huge for The Team," said Mitchell.
SENS-ATIONAL MATCHUP: Rogers Sportsnet has a shot at landing perhaps its largest hockey audience of the season when it broadcasts the Senators-Canucks game tonight (10 p.m.) in two regions. The matchup between the Canadian powerhouses was originally only scheduled to be shown to Pacific viewers, but Sportsnet decided last week to add it for the East/Ottawa region. Adding to the 'big game' treatment, the 'Net will have its HockeyCentral panel of Darren Dreger, Nick Kypreos and John Garrett on site at General Motors Place. You'll hear Sportsnet's Canucks crew of Jim Hughson and Garrett on the game's call. The Pacific region has always been Sportsnet's strongest in terms of NHL audience, while the Senators have seen the biggest jump in any region so far this season. Sens telecasts on Sportsnet are attracting 192,000 viewers per game through Dec. 2, nearly double the 2003-04 season average (101,000).
SATELLITE THREAT? With XM and Sirius satellite radio now both up and running in Canada, a question worth asking. What does their existence mean for the future of conventional sports stations such as the Team 1200? The answer: Probably not much. As the ill-fated Team Radio Network proved a few years back, nothing sells better with sports fans than talk about the local team. Said Mitchell: "We can never talk Senators hockey enough, especially when they're in a playoff run. (Satellite radio) is just another opportunity for people to hear sports. But if we do our job right and keep covering the local scene well, there shouldn't be an effect (on us)."
PUCK DROPPINGS: Two months into the season, Hockey Night in Canada's audience figures remain up sharply over 2003-04. The early game is averaging 1.601 million viewers (+23%), while Game 2's average is at 1.076 million (+35%).
AROUND THE DIAL: Must-see TV for soccer fans this afternoon: Sportsnet airs the 2006 World Cup draw from Leipzig, Germany, today at 2 p.m. It will be watched by more than a billion viewers worldwide ... Last Saturday's thrilling Vanier Cup between Laurier and Saskatchewan might have been a disappointment at the gate in Hamilton. But it was a hit for TSN, which recorded its largest audience ever for the game (493,000). The previous high: 321,000 in 2001.