Betting On Ice Hockey
Despite not being in the same company as football, American football or basketball, ice hockey enjoys an intense popularity in both Canada and northern Europe.
Betting On Ice Hockey Online
Ice Hockey Leagues To Bet On
Ice Hockey Betting Explained
Ice Hockey Odds Explained
Betting On Ice Hockey - Puckline Or Moneyline?
Who is tending the goal?
Power Plays And Penalty Killing
Betting On Ice Hockey Totals
Ice Hockey Value Bets
Ice Hockey Bookmakers
Due to this niche popularity, the sport doesn't attract the same interest in terms of betting.
The most popular ice hockey league in the world is the National Hockey League of North America. The NHL consists of 30 teams spread across both the United States and Canada. Each team plays 82 games through the regular season, playing 41 games at home and 41 away. As is the case with basketball, the sheer volume of games provides us with numerous opportunities to find value bets day after day. Similarly the sheer number of games can often mean the odds posted by bookmakers are not as accurate as they could otherwise be, giving sharp punters an edge right throughout the long NHL season.
Ice hockey is known as “The Fastest Game on Earth” and one would be hard-pressed to find a sport that is indeed faster, more physical or delivers more excitement than ice hockey. Few sports on earth can compete with a high-level ice hockey game between two fierce rivals for the blend of speed, power, skill – not to mention sheer potential for violence – it brings to the table! Not surprisingly, ice hockey is most established as a sport and a spectacle where winters are more severe, and the game has flourished in places like Canada, the United States, Northern and Eastern Europe, and in these areas especially ice hockey is also very popular among sports bettors.
Regardless of your personal location, ice hockey brings the same league and cup formats at club level and in international competitions as a sport like soccer does, and offers very similar betting markets, with a few US-style wagers thrown in.
Ice hockey is played between two teams of six – five outfield players and one goaltender – on an ice rink. The object of the game is to score more goals than the opposing team. Goals are scored by hitting a rubberized disc known as a puck using a hockey stick – which resembles a giant-sized 3-Iron - into a goal. An ice hockey match lasts an hour and is divided into three 20-minute periods.
Each period starts with a “face-off”, which sees two opposing players try and grab possession of the puck after it has been dropped in the centre circle of the rink by the referee. Like soccer, the object of ice hockey is to defeat the opposing team by scoring more goals than them.
As a result, virtually all ice hockey betting markets that you are familiar with in soccer betting also apply to ice hockey betting, including the outright winner of a league or cup, the winner of an individual game, first goalscorer, both teams to score, over/under, next goalscorer etc. In the US, ice hockey is often referred to simply as “hockey”, but that is not to be confused with the sport the UK calls hockey, which is played on a grass field, commonly by girls at school level.
So if you see phrases like pro hockey betting tips, NHL hockey betting tips, hockey odds explained, hockey odds today, hockey predictions or hockey over under stats when searching for betting advice on ice hockey, despite the omission of the word “ice” they will almost certainly be relating to ice hockey betting predictions.
There are a whole host of betting markets affiliated with ice hockey, some unique to the sport, others that are more general. Here is a list of the most popular ice hockey markets.
An outright bet is when we bet on a particular team to win a specific competition. In an ice hockey season there will be multiple outright betting options to wager on.
At international level, the Ice Hockey World Championship is held annually. Ice hockey is also one of the biggest attractions at the Winter Olympics held every four years. Look for outright winners of the individual groups plus the competition itself.
At club level there are multiple outrights to be had. In the NHL alone there are the two Divisional titles in each of the two Conferences to contest. The top eight teams from each Conference then take part in the playoffs, which are played out in a knockout format. The final two teams in each Conference will then contest the Conference Finals, with the winners of the Eastern Conference receiving the Prince of Wales Trophy, while the winners of the Western Conference receive the Clarence S Campbell Bowl. These two teams will then go on to contest the biggest outright in professional ice hockey – the Stanley Cup.
Also up for grabs is the Presidents Trophy, which is awarded to the team that finishes with the most points during the regular season.
The other major leagues in professional ice hockey like the Kontinental Hockey League, Swedish Hockey League and the American Hockey League all follow the same format as the NHL, and have a similar amount of potential outright bets.
Match Result (end of regulation)
This is the most straightforward bet of all – but with a caveat. You are selecting the team you believe will win an ice hockey game, but with the restriction of that victory coming within the regulation time period of sixty minutes. A frequently asked question from newcomers to the sport is “can you draw in ice hockey?” While draws are occasional featured in exhibition matches, there are no draws in competitive ice hockey, and games that are tied after 60 minutes are then decided by the Golden Goal rule in overtime, which means that the first team to score wins the game.
So in this instance, if the game is tied at the conclusion of the three regulation 20-minute time periods, even if the team you originally selected to win in regulation time then goes on to win the match in overtime, you will still lose your bet.
Match Result (including OT)
This bet really is the most straightforward bet of all, as it is based on the actual winner of the game, whether that victory is earned during regulation time or during overtime. You are simply betting on the team who you feel will leave the ice victorious.
Puck Line Handicaps
The phrase “ice hockey betting puck line” is a betting market that is unique to ice hockey, but is basically a variation on traditional spread betting. As in spread betting, a point spread is applied to the favourite and underdog. Typically the puck line is set at 1.5; the underdog will receive +1.5 goal puck line handicap, which means that if you bet on them, they must not lose by two or more goals for you to win. The favourite will receive a -1.5 goal puck line handicap, which means if you bet on them, they must win by at least 2 goals.
Goal Totals Over/Under
In this instance, the bet is that you select what you believe will be the total number goals scored in an ice hockey game – at least, or at most. If the Boston Bruins are playing the Chicago Blackhawks and you figure it will be a case of “goals galore” as it often is when these sides meet, you may envision the final score being 3-2, adding up to nine goals in total. If you believe there will be no more than five goals, your bet would be -5.5. If you believe there will be at least six goals or more, your bet will be +5.5.
With this bet, you can either bet on what you think will be the correct score at the conclusion of the game, or if you believe the game will be tied after the end of regulation time, you can also bet on that scoreline. If you believe the Blackhawks will rout the Bruins 6-1, that is the exact scoreline you will select for your bet. If you believe the Bruins will beat the Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime, you pick that scoreline and wager on it. If you strongly believe that the score will be tied at 4-4 at the end of the regulation time period of 60 minutes, choose that scoreline as your wager.
The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has some 74 members, and the sport of ice hockey is played at both amateur and professional level in many parts of the world, and while it is prevalent in regions with cold winters like Eastern Europe and North America, ice hockey games are also played in some areas of Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. There are multiple ice hockey tournaments and competitions played in a calendar year. Below is a list of the most significant.
Ice hockey has been one of the highlights of the Winter Olympics since the 1920s, and even though the top teams competing are made up of professional players from the NHL and other professional leagues, for many players winning the Olympic gold medal remains the pinnacle achievement of their careers.
Most successful team: Canada
Unlike the Olympics which take place every four years, the Ice Hockey World Championships are held annually, and feature the 16 top national teams in the world, containing most of the star players of the sport. Unlike the Olympics which has both men’s and women’s tournaments, the World Championships is a “men-only” event.
Most successful team: Russia/Soviet Union
National Hockey League (NHL) The NHL is the biggest professional ice hockey league/cup competition in the world. It is staged in North America and made up of 30 teams from Canada and the United States. The NHL is split into two leagues – known as conferences; the 16-team Eastern Conference and the 14-team Western Conference. The regular season runs from early-October to mid-April. It is followed by the 16-team playoffs that lead to the Stanley Cup final, ice hockey’s equivalent of the World Series. Famous teams competing in the NHL include the Montreal Canadians, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Boston Bruins, the Detroit Red Wings, the Chicago Blackhawks and the New York Rangers, and the NHL’s roster of star players includes Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Shea Weber, Alex Ovechkin and Henrik Lundqvist.
Most successful team: The Montreal Canadiens
Kontinental Hockey League (KHL)
The Kontinental Hockey League is an international professional ice hockey league which was founded in 2008 and is made up of 28 teams from countries in Eastern Europe. Despite its relative infancy, the KHL is already established as the no.1 professional ice hockey league in Europe and Asia, and in terms of interest generated and revenue raised, ranks second only in the world behind the NHL.
The top teams in the KHL include Dynamo Moscow, Dinamo Minsk, Medveščak Zagreb, SKA Saint Petersburg and Jokerit Helsinki.
Swedish Hockey League (SHL)
Ice hockey is the no.1 sport in Sweden both in terms of popularity and national achievement. The Swedish national team has won the World Championships nine times, and was Olympic champions in 1994 and 2006. The Swedish Hockey League is the top league in Western Europe, and comprises 14 teams that contest the Le Mat Trophy.
Teams in the SHL include the Malmo Redhawks, the Vaxjo Lakers and Modo Hockey.
American Hockey League (AHL)
The AHL is ice hockey’s equivalent of Minor League Baseball (MiLB) in that it is classed as one rung below the NHL, and like much of the MiLB, its teams are all affiliated with clubs from the top flight, and will ultimately provide those teams with talented young players. The AHL uses the exact same 30-team, twin-conference setup as the NHL. They have a regular 76-game season followed by a 16-team playoff with the two finalists contesting the Calder Cup.
Teams playing in the AHL include the Manchester Monarchs, the Hershey Bears, the Utica Comets and the Grand Rapids Griffins.
NCAA Ice Hockey Championship
The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) is the American college system, and college football, basketball, baseball and ice hockey is a very big deal in the US. Events draw huge live audiences and strong TV ratings, with fans excited to get a look at the superstars of the future in action. On occasion some bookmakers will offer NCAA hockey betting odds, and these can be used in the exact same way that you would use NHL betting odds, just do a little research on ESPN or check bettingexpert’s ice hockey betting tips to see if any NCAA games are featured.
No matter the sport you choose to bet on or the particular market you pick for your wager there is one fundamental law which transcends all sports and markets and applies to all bets: The odds are always key. The odds of a sports bet will always determine how much you will win from a wager. This rule applies to ice hockey also.
On the vast majority of sports betting websites, the odds pertaining to a sporting event are displayed in one of three ways; in fractions, which is commonplace in the UK and Ireland, in decimals which is the popular methods used in Europe and the Southern Hemisphere, and in the form of a Moneyline which is mainly seen in North America.
The Laws Of Probability
In effect, the odds linked to the sporting event you choose represent the probability of that result happening.
For example, if the USA are listed at odds of 2.50 to win an Ice Hockey Word Championship game against Russia, what does that actually mean in terms of a probability? Betting odds represent the likelihood - often referred to as the “implied probability” - of a particular outcome occurring. Therefore if the USA are listed at 2.5 to win a game against Russia, these odds are a reflection of what the bookmaker believes are the chances of the USA winning that match.
How Do Hockey Odds Work?
So what are the chances as a probability and a percentage of the USA beating Russia at odds of 2.50? We can answer this question with a simple formula:
Implied probability = 1 / decimal odds
So in our example, the chances of the USA beating Russia at the listed odds of 2.5 are:
1 / 2.5 = 0.400 = 40.00%
Understanding the implied probability expressed in betting odds is fundamental to all successful sports betting. Knowing how to convert odds into their implied probability will greatly enhance your chances of long term success betting on all sports including ice hockey.
In this case we see that there is only a 40% chance of the USA defeating Russia in this game. It is now up to you to decide whether this is a worthy risk. You can only choose that it is if you have a valid reason for that argument; e.g., you have studied the form guides of the teams going in to this fixture and they look favourable for the USA, you know Russia has key injuries, bettingexpert’s top ice hockey tipster is recommending a USA win, etc.
A £10 bet on a USA victory at odds of 2.50 will return £25, which leaves a healthy £15 profit after the initial £10 stake is subtracted – a nice return off a slightly risky bet.
Ice Hockey Betting Odds In Action – The Miracle On Ice
For a fun and historical example of ice hockey odds in action, we will bring you arguably the most famous ice hockey match of all time – the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympic final, popularly known as the “Miracle on Ice.”
Let us set the stage: in the red corner is the Soviet Union team, known as the “Red Army Machine”, the greatest international ice hockey team of all time. With their combination of speed, sublime skills and power, the Russians have taken the sport to another level, and have won four consecutive Olympic Gold medals since the USA were last victorious in 1960. Going in to this game, the Russians have won 17 World Championships since 1954 and five of the last six Olympic golds.
In the blue corner is the USA team, made up of college rookies with next to no experience at the highest level. Coached by Herb Brooks, the average age of the team is 21.
The Red Army Machine don’t just defeat their rivals, they beat them up, often hitting double-digit scorelines, as they did in a pre-Olympic exhibition match against the USA team in Madison Square Garden, which they won 10-3. The Russians are 1.3 favourites to win gold, meaning there is a 77% probability that will happen. In betting terms, a £10 bet on Russia would return a total of £13, meaning once the £10 stake is deducted, we are left with a £3 profit, which would only make sense if we were wagering a substantial amount, and our profit was thus significantly amplified.
The USA team were seeded seventh in a twelve-team lineup, and at the start of the tournament one could reportedly get as much as 1000/1 on the American team to win the Gold medal. What the general public or indeed the Las Vegas odds-makers weren’t aware of was Brooks had taken his team of novices on a 5-month, 61 game tour of Europe in 1979 to get them battle-hardened, during which time the team and the coach had developed a Leicester City-like “Us Against the World” type of team spirit. Brooks knew he didn’t have the best team in the competition, but he believed they had the best team-spirit.
Whatever Brooks’ on-ice tactics were, they seemed to be working as the USA marched unbeaten into the final, attracting huge national interest along the way. The USA were 18.0 underdogs when they faced the Soviets, which means a £10 bet would net you a hefty £180.00. Minus your original stake, that would leave you with a profit of £170.00.
The second period was dominated by the Soviets who had 12 shots on goal, yet score only once to lead 3-2. In the third and final period, the Americans suddenly grew in confidence to score twice and lead 4-3. As the clock ticks down, the Soviets go hell-for-leather to find an equaliser, but to no avail. The USA’s bunch of rookies have defeated the greatest ice hockey tea in history in one of sport’s biggest ever upsets.
Puckline betting is ice hockey's version of the runline in baseball. In this case, bookmakers will give one team a 1.5 goal handicap much like they give one club a 1.5 run handicap with baseball runlines.
You will often see it listed by your preferred bookmaker in the following way:
New York Rangers -1.5 2.90
Chicago Blackhawks +1.5 1.40
Much like baseball betting however, the puckline is not as popular as straight up moneyline betting (head to head without any handicap). One of the reasons is that it is a difficult form of betting to succeed at. A team's potential against the moneyline is much easier to frame as scoring events and margins in such a low scoring sport can tend to be more random than other sports.
However, in cases where the favourite is of odds 1.50 or less to win the game, the puckline can offer a more intriguing proposition. Similarly, the puckline can offer you the opportunity to combine betting opportunities. For example, you can bet both the favourite to win the game and the underdog to cover the puckline of +1.5 goals. Doing so means that if the favourite wins the game by a single goal, you collect on both your bets.
Goalies often will receive a day off to rest, particularly if their team is playing a streak of successive games. Although it is perhaps not as important as the starting pitcher in baseball or the starting quarterback in American football, the difference between a teams number one goalie and their reserve can in some cases be significant when betting on ice hockey. So it's important to pay attention to who will be starting at goalie in each game before betting on ice hockey.
Many believe that the goaltender is the most important player in an ice hockey team. Soviet Union coach Viktor Tikhonov always believed that his decision to substitute his team’s usual goaltender Vladislav Tretiak – rated as the no.1 in the world in that position - for backup goaltender Vladimir Myshkin after the first period of the 1980 Olympic final against the USA cost his team the gold medal in what has become known as the Miracle on Ice.
Despite all that body and head armor, and the relatively small goal, a goaltender must still attempt to keep out pucks that are being delivered at more than 100 mph multiple times throughout a game. Top goaltenders like Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens, Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers and Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings have the perfect blend of size, strength, agility and lightning fast reflexes and are literally worth their weight in gold.
Power Plays are a huge part of a NHL game. A Power Play is a situation where a team is penalised and plays with a man less than their opponent for a set time. How teams handle playing in this situation is critical to their chances of success in a game. So it pays to keep track of these statistics.
How successful is a team when playing with a man advantage? How often are they able to score? Likewise, how successful is a team when playing with a man down? How often do they concede goals? How often are they able to hold a team without a goal despite their disadvantage? Paying attention to these key statistics will help you keep ahead of the odds throughout the season.
So how can you win betting on goal totals in ice hockey? The first thing you should do is to not give too much consideration to a team's goal averages. Averages can often give a distorted picture. What you should rather do when betting on ice hockey is keep track of goal total occurrences. For example, games that featured the Los Angeles Kings might have had an average of 5 goals scored over their last 20 games. But what if two of those games only saw a single goal scored? The average of 5 goals is going to be distorted by these two very low scoring games.
So rather than consider averages, instead look at how often a team's games have gone over or under a given goal total. For example, if the goal total offered by a bookmaker for an upcoming Kings game is 5.5 goals, make a record of how many times recent Kings games have gone over or under that goal total. If you see a genuine trend either over or under that 5.5 goal line, you may want to consider that bet.
When betting on ice hockey, you should also take into account the goal totals in the recent meetings between the two teams. This will provide you with a good indication of what sort of goal totals you can expect in a given matchup.
Finally, consider how teams play at home compared to how they play away from home. There can often be quite a distinct trend between the type of game a team involves itself in when playing at home as opposed to away.
Upsets like the Miracle on Ice are great when they come off, but in reality, anyone who bases their ice hockey betting strategy around backing the underdog will not be taking part in sports betting for very long!
The key to longevity and long term success in all sports betting is choosing the best value bets. Although the sports of ice hockey and baseball could not on the face of them be any different, if you look at the NHL and MLB, we see that they both play a lot of games during the course of a regular season (162 for MLB, 82 for NHL), and that even the best teams in both sports lose more than a third of the games they play. For this reason, the most popular betting market in ice hockey – as it is in baseball – is on the match result.
For example, in the 2014-15 regular season, the Chicago Blackhawks defeated Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 to win the Stanley Cup. In the regular season, Chicago finished with a won-lost record of 48-34, while Tampa were slightly better at 50-32. This equates to a winning probability of 58.5% for the Blackhawks, and 60% for the Lightning.
While this level of probability means that if we consistently wager on these teams we will be successful more times than not, it also means that there is plenty of scope for backing the opposing teams to defeat them. A basic knowledge of NHL form plus the use of the top tipsters at bettingexpert can help predict when an upset is on the cards, which in the NHL is often.
Most ice hockey matches will be closely contested affairs, with both teams scoring at least twice. Because we know this, betting on the over/under, puck-line handicaps and correct score of ice hockey games is far easier than predicting the scorelines of soccer matches, and therefore offers great betting value.
While it’s human nature to be impulsive and bet on instinct, those bettors who have taken the time to formulate betting strategies - in this case NHL betting strategies – will consistently out-perform those who bet purely on a “feeling” or a “hunch”.
As with any form of sports betting, having a strategy in place for your ice hockey betting will greatly enhance your success with the bookmakers. A hockey betting system and strategy can be as simple or as complex as you wish to make it, but the more research you put into the sport, the more accurate will be your ice hockey predictions and the more you will get out of your betting.
Home and Away Form
Study the form of the teams in a fixture, particularly how they perform both at home and on the road. Some teams will be stronger at home, and in ice hockey the fans are so close to the action and get so involved with the game, they can almost become a seventh player on the ice. A team with great home form and a vociferous support base may be extremely difficult to back against.
Likewise a losing home team will have the supporters on their backs, so will be vulnerable to teams that are solid on the road.
Look For “Hidden Value” In The Odds
When a bookmaker favors a team, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are always correct. In any team sport, bookmakers will normally cast the home team as the favorite, unless the visiting side is performing much better than them in their league or conference. This rule also applies to ice hockey, even though home teams are far less consistent at home than most soccer teams.
There can be any number of factors that can add value to choosing the visiting team. A quick look at the two team’s head-to-head rivalry over the past couple of seasons might reveal some interesting facts. How is the home side’s form this season? How solid are the away team on the road? Which team is at full strength, and which is suffering injury depletions?
With a combination of your own research, plus regularly consulting the opinions of bettingexpert’s top ice hockey tipsters, plus information offered by the likes of Betfair’s ice hockey strategy, you will soon learn to spot hidden value in odds, and then to wager on them accordingly.
If you intend to begin betting on ice hockey seriously and regularly, selecting the correct bookmaker for your new sports betting endeavor is essential. What we are looking for is a bookmaker that delivers a large choice of ice hockey betting markets with consistently great odds, leaving you safe in the knowledge that when you win, you will be gaining maximum returns.
As one of the Big Four of US sports, ice hockey – the NHL in particular – is given massive coverage by the online US bookmakers. When searching for a bookmaker for your ice hockey betting, you will no doubt come across these US bookmakers, and you might be impressed by their deep coverage of the sport. The problem is, online betting is illegal in the US, so these sites are unauthorized and answer to no national licensing authorities. By comparison, all of the top UK based bookmakers are liable to stringent, government enforced rules and regulations that they must comply with. While they may not advertise the fact on their homepages, UK online bookmakers like bet365, Paddy Power and 888sport offer an excellent rage of ice hockey betting UK style, with added US markets.
There are many betting markets that are specific to the sport of ice hockey, and as your knowledge of the sport deepens, you will want to give those markets a try. A quick search of any odds comparison site will show you which bookmakers are offering the widest variety of ice hockey betting markets.
Never sacrifice a broader range of betting markets for poor odds. Always remember that the odds are a key element to successful sports betting. Make sure you select a bookmaker who consistently delivers odds that are among the best on offer in an ice hockey market. Check the available odds on offer for an ice hockey match covered by bettingexpert, or use an odds comparison site to see a selection of odds at-a-glance. You will soon discover which bookmakers are delivering the goods odds-wise, and which aren’t.
Several online bookmakers now offer live-streaming of ice hockey games . If live-streaming is something that you need to enhance your sports betting experience, be sure to sign up with a bookmaker who has that covered.
Most bookmakers that cover the NHL offer excellent in-play betting markets. If you enjoy betting on-the-go, look for a bookmaker that will provide you with live streaming as well as in-play betting and great odds.
For detailed bookmaker reivews, please visit our Bookmaker Reviews listing.