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The Dahlin Show sizzles in Buffalo on NHL draft night

"The Rasmus Dahlin Show" was a big hit in Western New York.

I'm referring to the 30-minute time period dealing with Dahlin becoming the first pick of the National Hockey League draft by the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night.

The 30-minutes before, during and after the Dahlin pick was the highest-rated period of the coverage by cable's NBCSN hire.

The program had a 5.0 rating at 7:30 p.m. and a 6.0 rating at 7:45 p.m. Dahlin was officially drafted at 7:49 p.m. and he was interviewed at 7:54 p.m.

Those are extremely high numbers for a Friday night in the summer on any channel.

"What a time to be a Buffalo sports fan," said Liam McHugh, the University at Buffalo graduate who hosted NBCSN's coverage of the draft. "The Bills snap a very lengthy playoff drought and then draft their quarterback of the future (Josh Allen), the Sabres get the No. 1 overall pick and they use it to get a generational talent."

The most amusing part of NBCSN's coverage came when it compared Dahlin's shiftiness on the ice to that of former Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders.

Now that wasn't a comparison anyone expected.

Naturally because Buffalo has a team in the NHL and the No. 1 pick, the rating for the NHL Draft here far exceeded the rating for the National Basketball Association draft on Thursday night.

It was a different story during the postseason.

The battle over which professional sport is more popular in WNY during the playoffs – basketball or hockey – ended up in a split decision.

On the strength of an 11.2 rating for Washington's Stanley Cup clincher in Game 5 of its series with Las Vegas, the NHL won over the NBA finals in local household ratings.

The five-game Stanley Cup Final series averaged an 8.7 rating locally.

The four-game sweep by the Golden State Warriors over the Cleveland Cavaliers averaged a 7.9 household rating.

However, advertisers don't buy household ratings.

They buy demographics.

And the NBA finals won in all key demographic categories, with an incredible edge of 8.7-4.7 in the age 18 through 34 demographic and an edge of 6.8-5.2 in the age 18-49 demographic.

There are several asterisks in the results.

Local station executives and researchers question the way Nielsen measures demographics in Buffalo.

Three games of the Stanley Cup Final were carried on NBC affiliate Channel 2, but two others were carried on the cable channel NBCSN.

All four games in the NBA Finals were carried on WKBW-TV (Channel 7), an ABC affiliate. That's an advantage.

A five-game series is more likely to have an advantage over a four-game series, which was an advantage for the NHL. If Cleveland had forced a Game 5, the NBA game needed an 11.9 rating to tie the five-game NHL average.

NHL games generally last 30 minutes longer.

Three of the four NBA games had 9 p.m. start times, which generally reduce ratings here. Game 2 was the highest-rated one with a 9.1 and it started at 8 p.m.

The decisive fourth win by Golden State was carried on a Friday night, which is generally one of the lowest-viewing nights of the week.

All things considered, it is pretty clear that interest in the playoffs of both leagues was pretty close. It certainly was much closer than all the attention the NHL gets in media outlets here over the NBA.

Of course, there could be much more interest in the NHL here next season now that Dahlin is a Sabre who is expected to make the team instantly more competitive.

Nationally, the NBA is a big winner. It drew a 10.0 household rating for its four-game finals, while the five-game Stanley Cup Final averaged a 2.7 rating.

*Read more about Liam McHugh's roles in national media.


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