While hockey remains one of the least wagered on professional sports in North America, it can offer plenty of rewards to the informed bettor.
There are several options when it comes to betting on hockey. They include the moneyline, puckline, over/under, and in some situations, 60 minute betting.
The moneyline is quite straightforward. Taking a team on the moneyline means that you are betting on them to win the game straight up. Moneyline wagers are based on the final outcome of the game, including overtime. This is the most popular form of hockey betting.
The puckline is hockey’s form of the spread. It is set at 1 ½ goals. If you wager on a team at +1 ½, they can win, tie, or lose by one goal. If you place your bet on the team favored by –1 ½, they must win by at least two goals in order for your wager to cash.
Each line is accompanied by a price, for example.
Philadelphia +1.5 –230
Toronto –1.5 +200
In other words, you would have to risk $230 to win $100 with Philadelphia, or risk $100 to win $200 with Toronto.
Betting on hockey totals is also similar to that of other sports. You are wagering on whether the combined goal total by both teams will be higher or lower than the set total. With the new NHL rules, the totals have been adjusted this season. The total is usually set no lower than 5 1/2 goals and no higher than 7 1/2 goals. Totals include the full outcome, including overtime.
Shootouts result in one goal being added to the final score. While individual goals in the shootout do not count towards the total, the one goal given to the winning team does.
Watch for teams playing on long road trips, as tired legs can lead to a lack of offensive chances, and therefore a solid under play.
The final option for hockey bettors, which is usually reserved for international hockey, is 60 minute betting. This means that the outcome is based on three periods of play; overtime is not included. In this situation the bettor also has the option of selecting the tie. A game that goes to overtime would be considered as a tie with these bets.
There are plenty of profits to be made by simply following teams’ hot and cold streaks. Like other sports, hockey is all about momentum. Over the course of an 82-game season there are plenty of ups and downs.
Finding undervalued teams is also crucial in turning a profit. On any given night, the weakest team in the league can go toe to toe with the strongest. Keeping that in mind can save you from constantly siding with public teams that are priced in the –200 to -300 range.
For instance, the Minnesota Wild were an undervalued team in 03-04. Wild backers ended the season up 6 ½ units despite the fact that they finished just one game above .500.
Conversely the Ottawa Senators cost their backers nearly 20 units, yet were 19 games above .500. Clearly the Senators were overvalued on most nights.
At the end of the 03-04 season, only nine teams would have produced a profit based on moneyline numbers. Even the Philadelphia Flyers, who finished the year 23 games above .500, had bettors down over 16 units.
Injuries do not play nearly as large of a role as they do in other sports. Hockey is a pure team sport and while the loss of a star player can hurt, there are usually plenty of other guys capable of stepping in and filling the void. It is not a good idea to blindly side with a team based on the fact that their opponent is missing a key player.
Another thing to look out for is starting goaltenders. A team’s backup goalie will tend to start around 15 games each season. These situations are not always known until just before gametime, however local newspaper reports will sometimes hint at who will be starting that night’s game. The difference in skill level between a starter and a backup can be huge.