One of the biggest stories in the NHL this season has been the increase  in viewers in the league’s first year of its television contracts with  ESPN and TNT.

The league is also seeing unparalleled growth in female and younger fans that should have a big impact for years to come.

According to NHL research, 37% of hockey fans are female, including an eye-popping 26% growth in that demographic since 2016.

Most of those new fans are likely within the coveted 18-49 age demographic, too, since nearly 40% of all NHL fans are under 50.

Kali Mack — an Avalanche fan who lives in Colorado and is part of the  league’s Power Players youth advisory board — said the recent growth  comes as the league has showcased more of the human side of the game.

“We’re seeing more player interviews, family moments and those heartfelt  things that happen off the ice, as well as this mix of the great  highlights that we’re also seeing.,” she said.

The increase among female viewers was higher during Wednesday night games on TNT.

During the regular season, there was a 44% jump in female viewers  compared to previous years, when the games were aired on NBCSN.

The growth in younger fans should also lead to increased revenue in  future seasons. Commissioner Gary Bettman said revenue should be in  excess of $5.2 billion for this year.

The NHL’s efforts got a bonus Friday night as the final was pushed to  Game 6 on Sunday night, where Tampa Bay will host Colorado and try to  force a deciding Game 7 in its threepeat championship bid.