The opening night of the National Hockey League (NHL) 2023-24 season broke viewership record on the major sports network ESPN.

US ice hockey’s elite competition kicked off on October 11 with a triple-header of games that drew an average of 909,000 total viewers, with a peak of 1.65 million watchers.

This marked a 40% increase over the two opening night fixtures from the beginning of the 2022-23 season, despite the extra game that could have diluted the average.

The second of the three fixtures, which saw the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, averaged 1.43 million viewers across the match, a 64% increase on the first opening-day primetime game of last season and a record for a regular-season ice hockey game on ESPN.

This was the first of two primetime games on the day, the second of which (Vegas Golden Knights versus Seattle Krakens) saw a 71% increase in viewership from the equivalent opening-day fixture last season.

It marks the latest in a string of record-breaking sports performances on ESPN throughout 2023.

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In September, motor racing's Formula One Singapore Grand Prix generated a record US viewership figure for ESPN.

Coverage of the race, aired live on ESPN alongside the F1 Kids telecast on ESPNU, gained a combined average audience of 1.2 million viewers, the race’s largest ever in the US.

The records come ahead of a season where the NHL is looking to boost its global profile.

In October, NHL chief content officer Stever Mayer revealed that the league had shortlisted Mexico City, Mexico, as the future site of an international NHL game as a way to grow the league.

Mayer explained that there are a number of NHL teams interested in exploring the market for hosting games in Mexico, stating: “Our international department and our events department get so many inquiries from all over the world, and we’ve heard from so many people that have done major events in big cities, and they love the fact that hockey can be viable in their countries.

Later in the 2023-24 season, Sweden is set to play host to four regular season games. The league has played 32 pre-season games and 28 regular season fixtures in Europe since 2007.