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Sunday, February 17, 2002
 
U.S.-Russia draws largest audience since 1980

Associated Press


SALT LAKE CITY -- The United States' 2-2 tie with Russia was by far the highest-rated hockey game -- Olympics or NHL -- on U.S. television since the 1980 Lake Placid Games.

NBC's live broadcast starting at 11:30 p.m. ET on Saturday night drew a 7.2 national rating, meaning 7.2 percent of TV homes tuned in. About 22 million people watched at least part of the game.

That's the biggest network audience in at least 22 years for a game involving NHL players.

The rating is 47 percent higher than the top rating at the 1998 Nagano Games (a 4.9 for the United States vs. Canada), the first time the NHL took a break during the regular season to allow its players to participate in the Olympics.

The New York Islanders' deciding Stanley Cup finals Game 6 overtime victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on May 25, 1980, drew a 4.4 rating.

The game known as the "Miracle on Ice" -- when a collection of amateur players from the United States upset the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics -- drew a 23.9 national rating in a taped broadcast on ABC. That was the last time the two countries played on U.S. ice. The live telecast of U.S. team's victory over Finland in the gold medal game three days later got a 23.2 rating.

The rating for U.S.-Russia in Salt Lake City is 26 percent higher than the season average for "Saturday Night Live."