NHL Notebook: Vegas Golden Knights forward Mark Stone out indefinitely after back surgery, U.S. NHL viewership plummets and more
The Vegas Golden Knights will be without forward Mark Stone for the foreseeable future after undergoing back surgery on Tuesday.
Stone, 30, was injured on January 12 and began rehabilitation work soon after. A recent setback, however, led to the determination that surgery was the best course of action.
His surgery was performed by Dr. Chad Prusmack in Denver, CO on Tuesday, and Stone is expected to make a full recovery. He appeared in 43 games this season for Vegas scoring 17 goals and 38 points.
The NHL saw its ratings plummet 22%, the Sports Business Journal reported Wednesday.
As the All-Star break approaches, it’s far from good news for ESPN and TNT, who have invested heavily in the NHL brand over the past few years.
“The main reason for such a steep drop is that both cable networks doubled the number of games they carried compared to last season, from 27 to 54,” wrote Austin Kapp of the Journal. “Longer game times generally hurt the average viewership.”
So far this season, there have been an average of 373,000 viewers for regular NHL games, compared to 478,000 US viewers at this point last year.
Here’s some of what The Athletic’s Sean Gentile wrote about the news:
In this case, however – and maybe only this one – you should think twice before internalizing the ESPN/TNT deal as a failure because there are legitimate explanations for the declines. If this surprises you, you are not alone.
In ESPN’s case, they started using hockey as counter-programming to NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.” Nationally, this is where other shows will die; American sports fans, other than those who support the teams involved, have better things to do. People, you’ll be shocked to learn, prefer to watch football or, like, have dinner.
So in 2021, ESPN reserved that spot for things like NBA G-League games (Ignite vs. Grand Rapids Gold on Dec. 19) and MLB Gold Glove ceremonies, opting instead for light coverage of the NHL during the soccer season. In 2022, the approach changed, alongside the decision to go from eight game shows – which no doubt suffered a boost in the curiosity factor back to ESPN – to 17, many of which aired against the TV juggernaut the most reliable on the planet. Gotta show them somewhere.
And, of course, if you took those recent Sunday night games out of the equation and put them under the same heading as last season, the ratings would average 491,000. That’s better than ESPN’s average. during the 2021-22 season.
Buffalo Sabers goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has entered the Calder Trophy race.
This, according to Steven Ellis of The Athletic, who had this to say about Luukkonen’s season:
Luukkonen has been considered Buffalo’s goaltender of the future for some time, but he’s starting to show why now. The 23-year-old is 13-5-2 in 20 games and went 6-2-1 in January. Eric Comrie started well, but injury, as well as inconsistent play on his return, gave Luukkonen plenty of opportunities. Craig Anderson was also a good mentor. Sabers fans, you might finally have that number 1 you’ve been needing all this time.
Zach Laing is the News Director and Senior Columnist for the Nation Network. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at [email protected].