NBC's Winter Olympics gold medal hockey game averaged 27.6 million viewers Sunday, the third-biggest
audience for a hockey game on U.S. television, according to figures released today by Nielsen Media Research.
ABC's delayed telecast of the Feb. 22, 1980, "Miracle on Ice'' game between the U.S. and Soviet Union remains the most-watched hockey game in U.S. television history, averaging 34.2 million viewers. The second-most watched was the U.S. team's 4-2 victory over Finland in its final game of the 1980 Winter
Olympics, which averaged 32.8 million.
Both 1980 games were played when there were only three major networks and little competition from cable television for viewers.
Also, the U.S. population was 36 percent smaller than it is today — 226 million people compared to 307 million, according to Census Bureau figures.
The average audience of 27.6 million for Sunday's game topped such events over the past year as the 2010 Grammy Awards (25.9 million viewers); the 2010 Rose Bowl (24 million); Game 4 of the 2009 World Series (22.8 million, the most-watched game); the NCAA men's basketball championship game (17.6 million);
Game 4 of the 2009 NBA Finals (16 million, the most-watched game); the 2010 Daytona 500 (16 million); and the final round of The Masters golf tournament (14.3 million).
Viewership was up 61 percent from the 17.1 million average for the U.S.-Canada gold medal game of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.
Viewership for Sunday's game from Vancouver, British Columbia, peaked at 34.8 million viewers from 2:30-3 p.m. Pacific Time as Zach Parise scored the-game tying goal for the U.S. with 24.4 seconds left in regulation.
The game had a 15.2 rating — the percentage of television sets tuned to the game — and a 30 percent audience share. The "Miracle on Ice'' game had a 23.9 rating and 37 share, while the final game in 1980, had a 23.2 rating and 61 share.
The telecast will be replayed on the Universal Sports cable channel at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.