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Classic earns higher ratings than any regular-season game in decade

NEW YORK -- More people tuned in on New Year's Day to see
the NHL play outdoors than any other regular-season game in more
than a decade.

The Penguins-Sabres game in snowy Buffalo -- the first
regular-season outdoor NHL game in the United States -- drew a 2.6
overnight rating and a 5 share on NBC. Those were the best numbers
since a six-game regional telecast on Fox drew a 3.0 overnight
rating and a 7 share on Feb. 3, 1996.

Pittsburgh won 2-1 in a shootout on a Sidney Crosby's score
before a crowd of more than 71,000 at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The big numbers, in the stands and on TV, came three years after
the NHL lockout forced the cancellation of an entire season and
after last season's Stanley Cup finals on NBC drew record-low
ratings.

"We're delighted by the success of this historic event," NBC
Sports president Ken Schanzer said. "The Winter Classic exposed
hockey to a larger audience and definitely made new fans of the
game."

The Winter Classic ratings also surpassed Wayne Gretzky's final
game, which was broadcast on Fox on April 18, 1999, and drew a
2.5/6.

The Buffalo and Pittsburgh markets led the ratings, at 38.2/58
and 17.7/30, respectively. But markets such as Sacramento, Calif.,
St. Louis and Denver also drew strong ratings, even though the game
went up against a number of college football bowl games, including
an intriguing Capital One Bowl between Florida and Michigan.

"This was one of the best events I've ever been a part of as a
player, coach or broadcaster," NBC game analyst Eddie Olczyk said.
"It truly was a memorable experience and a great day for the sport
of hockey."

Overnight ratings measure the 55 largest TV markets in the
United States, and each ratings point represents about 735,000
households. The rating is the percentage watching a telecast among
homes with televisions, and the share is the percentage tuned into
a broadcast among those households with televisions on at the time.