A quick intro to ice hockey betting
As well as being Canada’s national sport, ice hockey is also becoming a bettor’s favourite, with the annual turnover for betting on ice hockey steadily increasing worldwide. In particular, fans of American sports love betting on ice hockey thanks to its intensity and fast pace, which make it ideal for live betting. After all, that’s where the biggest opportunities lie.
While it is claimed that a sport similar to hockey first appeared in Ancient Greece, ice hockey first became popular in Canada among European Colonial soldiers in order to escape boredom in the cold and wild North Americas. Thanks to the below-zero temperatures for most of the year and the easy access to frozen lakes, Canadians quickly became fond of playing ice hockey with 2-meters long sugar maple wood sticks. It wasn’t long before the sport also became popular in the United States and across the Atlantic in countries like Russia, Sweden and Finland.
Nowadays, thanks to the availability of indoor ice rinks in many countries, ice hockey has fans in countries like Turkey, Israel, even South Africa. It is also one of the main sports for Winter Olympic Games.
Main ice hockey competitions in the world
The two top ice hockey competitions are the National Hockey League (NHL, North America) and the Kontinental Hockey League (Europe and Russia).
Thirty-one teams, twenty-four American and seven Canadian, constitute the NHL which is divided into two conferences (Eastern and Western) and then four divisions: the Atlantic, the Metropolitan, the Central and the Pacific. The eight best teams from each Conference proceed to the Stanley Cup playoffs stage, leading eventually to the Stanley Cup Finals where the ultimate champion is crowned.
The KHL has a similar structure to the NHL. Teams from Russia, China, Belarus, Latvia, Finland, Kazakhstan and Slovakia can participate. Once again the teams are divided into Eastern and Western Conference and the winner of the playoffs is awarded the Gagarin Cup.
Other competitions worth noticing are the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) and the American Hockey League (AHL) which is the developmental league for the NHL - similar to NBA’ G League.
Ice hockey rules
One of the main advantages of ice hockey, and one of the main reasons that it is so popular amongst bettors, is that the rules are very easy to understand even by people who have no relation to the sport.
Every team has five players, as five are the referees, and a goalie. All hold a stick and they can touch the puck with any part of their bodies. They are not allowed to score or pass using their hands or legs and holding your opponent is not allowed. Every game has three twenty-minutes periods. As with basketball, every whistle by the referee stops the timer.
Two players are in the defense, one in the centre and two in the offense. A team can have fourteen substitution players, of which only one is a goalie. While a team can have as many subs as possible, it is not allowed to substitute its goalie unless he is injured.
In ice hockey there can be no draw. If the score is tied after regular time, an overtime period follows. In most leagues, penalty shots follow the overtime if there isn’t a victorious team, while in some others a second overtime period takes place before the penalties. Whatever the outcome of the overtime, both teams will get a point as they were tied during regular time and the final winner will get an additional point.
The rink is divided by three different lines:
- The red line of the crease or goal line.
- The blue line for the offside.
- The red line in the centre where the game kicks off.
The space between one blue line and the other is called neutral zone. The zone from a blue line until the red or goal line is called either the attacking zone or defending zone depending on which of the two teams we are referring to. The blue line is considered part of whatever zone the puck is in.
Ice hockey terms glossary
Face-off is like the tip-off or jump ball in basketball. It is used to begin or restart the play after a goal. Two opposing players attempt to gain control of the puck after it is dropped by the referee.
An attacking player is in an offside position if he steps with both legs ahead of the blue defensive line before the puck. After an offside call by the ref, a faceoff follows.
An icing violation occurs when a player shoots the puck from behind the centre red line, across the opposing team's goal line, and the puck remains untouched. A faceoff in the side of the violating team follows to continue the game while the violating team isn’t allowed to substitute any of its players at that point.
ice hockey is a tough sport with plenty of physical contact. However, everything takes place in a sport context, and so a penalty is enforced in case of butt ending, checking from behind, cross checking, elbowing, fighting or fisticuffs, hooking, interference, kneeing, roughing, slashing, spearing and tripping. Depending on the severity of a foul, a player can be punished with a two minutes elimination or a match penalty with the player missing the game.
If a player is fouled in his offensive zone, a penalty is called. Once the puck crosses the end line, the attempt is considered over, regardless of whether a shot was taken. If a penalty is missed, then a faceoff follows to resume the game.
Ice hockey betting explained: types of ice hockey bets
Game winner or Moneyline bets
Probably the most popular betting option in all sports. A player bets on which team will win the game after the three periods have passed.
Handicap or Puck Line bets
A handicap betting option is available when one of the two teams has a significantly higher chance of winning. This relates to the winning team as well as the number of goals scored.
For example, if a team has a -1 handicap, this means that in order for a winning bet on this team to be paid, they must win with at least a goal difference. In the case of the opposing team, a winning bet will pay off even if the game is a tie.
When it comes to the total number of goals scored, a player can bet over a number of goals to be scored or under a number of goals to be scored.
Goals scored (extra time betting)
In ice hockey it is very possible that the game will go in extra time but this option isn’t available in all games. That’s why in a game where extra time is an option, betting Over an X number of goals offers lower odds compared to games that extra time isn’t an option while Under usually offers higher odds.
As you know by now, a standard hockey game is split up into three different periods. Bookmakers allow you to bet on the winner of one of those periods. This type of betting is ideal to make the most of the game’s momentum. For example, if a team comes out strong in the first period it is very likely that their performance will drop in the second period, even if they end up winning the game.
Ice hockey live betting (in-play betting)
Cloudbet isn’t the only sportsbook offering NHL live streaming services as it is common among bookmakers to make live betting more interesting. Aside from the pre-game betting options, game winner, handicap and total goals, a player can bet on the next team to score and on one of the numerous available specials. like both team to score or the range of the win.
Future bets (outrights bets)
As with all sports, long term options are available in ice hockey betting as well and players tend to prefer them as the odds are significantly higher. The most typical example of long term betting is betting on the Stanley Cup winner, or which team will finish top of the Eastern or Western Division of the NHL.
Ice hockey betting strategy
While there are specific parameters which are very important for one’s betting strategy, brief statistical research will help you get ahead of the bookmakers as the odds are usually based on the amount wagered on each option, rather than factors affecting a team’s performance. Quick research about the sport will also help you avoid a couple of unexpected events.
The home advantage
Due to geographical reasons in countries like Canada, the USA or Russia, teams have to travel long distances for away games which can impact their performance significantly. Moreover, unlike the NBA, some ice hockey fans are famous for the atmosphere they create in their home grounds, giving a tremendous boost in their teams. In a physical sport like ice hockey, such a boost can help a team gain the momentum of the gain- which can even be the difference between winning or losing. Always take the home advantage into consideration.
Never underestimate the underdog
Thanks to the structure of ice hockey as a sport and how a standard NHL season turns out, any team can defeat or be defeated by anyone. The game winner or loser is usually decided by a couple of plays or goals so unexpected results are quite common. Moreover, NHL’s salary cap is quite severe and so, differences between teams tend to be small.
This isn’t supposed to mean that you should start betting on the underdog every game night. Be smart with your selections and they will pay off.
Unless you have years of experience with ice hockey and the NHL in particular, avoid combo betting at all costs. Many inexperienced bettors are attracted by the high payout but it is high because it is highly unlikely to happen. Unlike soccer, catching a combination of wagers is very hard as the parameters affecting the game are numerous and can change very fast.
Go for single bets instead. The thrill may be less but the returns will definitely be higher.
The most critical player
Whilst substitutions to a team's offense or defense during the game can impact the final score tremendously, no player matters as much as the goalie. Never bet on a team with a bad goalie. Their importance is immense as there are only six players on the pitch for each team and so his participation in the game is increased compared to sports like soccer.
Lastly, it is worth mentioning that teams tend to be very stable. So bettors interested in the total goals betting option should do their research on a team before betting as it is relatively easy to find teams that score or receive many goals on average and use this stat in their advantage.
Get your twig, set, butterfly slide.