Hockey isn’t quite on the same level as sports like football or baseball when it comes to popularity in the United States, but it’s nothing to scoff at. A recent Harris poll showed that the NHL ranked sixth in terms of popularity among Americans behind pro football, baseball, college football, auto racing and pro basketball. It was the 30th consecutive year that football finished at the top of the list.
Still, hockey has been growing steadily. Hockey was ranked 11th in this same poll back in 1985. Many say that hockey hasn’t fully caught-on in the USA because it’s fairly low-scoring compared to football or basketball, but that’s asinine. Soccer has even less scoring than hockey, and it’s arguably the fastest-growing sport in America. Hockey has a lofty perch near the top of the rankings, and it’s going to stay there for a while.
Stanley Cup Playoff television ratings were up in 2017 from where they were last year by about three percent. Games averaged about 830,000 viewers through the first two rounds of the playoffs. Viewership was way up during the Pittsburgh Penguins’ six-game triumph over the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Finals, as well. The deciding Game 6 drew 3.9 million viewers, which was up from 3.1 million during Game 6 of last year’s Finals.
The most popular way to bet on hockey is to use the moneyline. If you’re familiar with sports betting in any way, you should be familiar with the concept of the moneyline. If not, it’s easy to explain. You’ll see a hockey game listed like the following example:
If you want to bet on Detroit, you have to risk $130 just to win $100 back. If you want to bet on Dallas, you risk $100 to win $110. Simple enough, no? Not all games use those exact numbers, of course, and the number value will fluctuate based on how the bookmaker believes each of the respective teams will fare.
Here’s an example of a lopsided moneyline, which indicates the bookmaker believes there is a strong favorite to win and a massive underdog.
Los Angeles -250
In this instance, the bookmaker believes Los Angeles is the very likely winner of this game. You have to bet $250 on L.A. just to win $100 back. There is massive value in betting on the underdog in these instances. If you bet $100 on Anaheim, you stand to win $300 back. They’re a huge underdog for a reason, though, and the chances of Anaheim winning this hypothetical matchup are slim. Identifying values and projecting likely scenarios is a crucial aspect of hockey betting as well as sports betting in general.
You may also bet on the “puck line”, which is hockey’s version of the point spread. As is the case with baseball, most hockey games have the same spread of 1.5. You may lay 1.5 goals for the favorite or take 1.5 goals for the underdog.
Detroit -1.5 (+200)
Dallas +1.5 (-240)
If you’re betting on Dallas here, you’re betting on Dallas simply winning the game or losing by just one goal. If you bet on Detroit, you need them to win by a minimum of a two-goal margin. Of course, the odds in parenthesis there complicate matters. In order to bet on Dallas, you have to bet a whopping $240 just to win $100 back if they do win. If you bet on Detroit and they do win by two or more goals, you win $200 on your $100 bet.
As is the case with most sports, you may also bet on the total. The concept here is simple, of course. You’re trying to guess how many goals the teams will combine to score in a given game. Generally, that number is somewhere between 5 and 6.5 for the NHL. Unlike other sports where the bookmaker may shift the actual total, bookmakers are more likely to simply shift the odds in a hockey total rather than adjusting the number itself.
If, let’s say, bettors continue to bet the over, the bookmaker will move those odds upward and make the odds less rewarding for bettors.
Just like in baseball, most books also offer the Grand Salami bet for hockey. Bookmakers will accumulate the implied totals from all games on a given schedule every day and bettors will have the chance to take the over or the under. If there are 10 games on a given day, the total will usually lie somewhere between 53 and 60, depending on the games themselves.
Obviously, familiarizing yourself with the teams and the intricacies of the game is vital before dipping your toes into the hockey betting pool.
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with things one thing to look for immediately is a home/away split. The home teams are favored most often in hockey, but not all teams dominate on their home ice. You can look at a team’s win/loss record at home or away as well as how certain players perform in various arenas around the league. Some prefer playing in front of the home fans, while others may thrive as the adversary in enemy territory.
Goal differential is also a great way to dig a little deeper into just how good a team really is. Some team may have a great record but a poor goal differential. This is the hallmark of a team that is due for regression. Similarly, if a team has a mediocre record but a super positive goal differential, they’re likely to go on some sort of winning streak before long. A team with a negative goal differential is likely a bad one. Win/loss records only tell you so much about a team’s true quality. Looking at goal differential, just like run differential in baseball, gives us a clearer view.
You should also be cognizant of the goalies in a given game. Similar to how a starting pitcher impact betting on a baseball game, a team’s chances of winning or losing may well hinge on the quality of the goaltender. Teams don’t use the same netminder every night nowadays, so be sure to see a starting lineup before going all-in on a certain game. If a team is playing the second half of a back-to-back, there’s a decent chance they’re going to roll out their backup goalie. That can hinder even the best teams.
Bovada is your no. 1 stop for betting on hockey. If you’re seeking a reputable site with fair lines and limitless options, you can’t do much better. They have the NHL covered with game lines, futures, props and everything else you can think of. Bovada also has game lines for a variety of leagues all over the world. They also offer live betting opportunities.
BetOnline and MyBookie are a couple of other places to look if you’re interested in betting on the sport.
Hockey tends to have lower betting limits on these sites because the sites aren’t completely comfortable handicapping them compared to more popular games like football or basketball. At Bovada, the limit is set at $1,000 to bet on the moneyline of an NHL game. You may bet $500 for totals and parlays, $600 for futures and $200 apiece for team and player props.
You can go higher with BetOnline. You may bet up to $3,000 on the puck line, moneyline or totals as well as $500 on team totals. They also offer 1st period betting and 3-way lines. You may bet up to $500 on 1st period totals and $1,000 on the 3-way moneyline. Live bets are capped at $1,000 for NHL games. BetOnline also offers AHL lines with a betting limit of $500.