The Dallas Stars and the Nashville Predators hosted more than 85,000 people at the 2020 Bridgestone Winter Classic at the Cotton Bowl on New Years Day. It was the second largest ever crowd to attend the league’s marquee event.
However, it didn’t translate to big ratings on national television.
Going up against a pretty intriguing college football bowl game featuring Alabama and Michigan, the Winter Classic drew nearly two million people in total audience delivery during the game’s time slot. It’s the lowest Winter Classic audience in the event’s history:
I think what Greg Wyshynsky from ESPN tweeted about the low ratings sums it up well:
I mean, if you're one of those fans that complains about being "force fed" the same shit from the NHL and you didn't watch this game and support a non-traditional matchup, WELP, open wide for heaping spoonfuls of "same shit."— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) January 3, 2020
It’s not all bad news, though.
The Winter Classic set records for ratings in both local markets, with Dallas drawing a 4.3 rating and Nashville drawing a 5.1 rating. For Dallas, that was nearly three times larger than any regular season game has ever drawn on NBC in the market, a record that had been set more than 13 years ago.
Additionally, the game out-drew any other regular season game outside of a Winter Classic or Stadium Series game on the network since the 2013-2014 season, and is expected to be the largest regular season rated game of this season as well.
As for the actual event itself, it couldn’t have gone any better in terms of the venue they picked and the tickets they sold. The economic impact to the City of Dallas, which was estimated at $30 to $35 million by the Dallas Sports Commission, is fantastic. Nashville Predators fans traveled really well, with over 25,000 fans in the city the days leading up to the game, spending money on hotels, dining, entertainment, rental cars, ride shares, merchandise, and other things that support the local economy.
In fact, the amount of economic impact the event drew for Dallas may be among the league’s largest because of the fans that traveled here. Remember, Texas is massive, and Dallas Stars fans from around Austin, Houston, San Antonio, and other parts of the state would have had significant travel to the city to attend the New Year’s Day event as well.
According to some cursory research, the Winter Classic has generated estimated economic impact of:
$26.4 million in 2019 (Notre Dame)
$18.5 million in 2017 (Busch Stadium)
$15 million in 2014 (Ann Arbor)
$22 million in 2011 (Heinz Field)
$36 million in 2010 (Fenway Park)
Dallas would be among the high end of these events in terms of the local community impact. That alone should keep other “non-traditional” markets in the mix when the league is assessing future Winter Classic locations.