Beginner's Guide to NHL Betting
Considered to be the premier ice hockey league in the world, the National Hockey League consists of 32 teams - 25 in the United States and 7 in Canada and as one of 'The Big Four' sports in the US, NHL games understandably draw huge crowds. It is the fifth wealthiest sports league in the world and one of the most historic too - the Stanley Cup is the oldest professional sports trophy in North America and crowns the playoff champion at the end of each season.
Navigating the various sportsbook markets in such a stat-fueled game can be difficult to say the least and with so many betting opportunities, you don't want to be missing out. If you're a rookie just getting started in the wagering world and you're looking to understand just how the NHL odds work, you're in the right place. So, without further ado, here's our beginner's guide to betting on the NHL.
A Brief Overview of the NHL
The National Hockey League was first formed in Montreal, Canada on November 26th 1917. At its inception there were only 4 teams, all located in Canada, but soon the league expanded to the United States. Between 1942 and 1967, there were still just 6 teams in the league - now coined 'The Original 6', but by 2000, the league had adopted 30 teams in total and they continue to add more, with the most recent joining in 2021.
A year in the NHL, like most other American leagues, is divided into preseason, regular season and postseason. The preseason consists of six to eight exhibition games and starts in late September. Since changes made in 2021, each team now plays a total of 82 games in the regular season, 26 of which are against those in their regional divisional and the extra 56 against a mixture of other opponents. With so many match ups and weekly games hosted country-wide, there are plenty of fans looking to take home their slice of the betting profits - keep reading to get a grasp of just how the NHL sportsbooks work.
Chalk: The favoured team in a given match-up.
Dog: Short for 'underdog' (the least likely team to win).
Push: When your bet is refunded.
Money Line: Simply betting on who will be the winning team, regardless of points.
- Over/Under: The odds makers list the potential total scores for bets over or under that amount (also known as totals).
The Grand Salami: A bet on the total number of goals scored across all games on a given night.
Puck Line: The NHL's version of a point spread - predicting the winning or losing margin for a given team and game.
American Odds Explained
American hockey odds are displayed with either a minus (-) sign or a plus (+) sign. The odds for the favourites will always display the minus (-) sign and represent how much the bettor needs to stake to win $100. Meanwhile, the odds for underdogs are accompanied by a plus (+) sign, indicating the amount won for every $100 staked.
On most betting sites users can change the odds style to decimal or fractional, which may be easier to read, but American odds will be the default for users in the United States.
A Moneyline bet is simply betting on who you think will win the game. As with all sports betting, Moneyline wagers are by far the most popular. Their simplicity and ease of use makes them attractive to all bettors looking to get involved.
In the example above, the Jets are at +200 versus the Bruins at -240. Here, the Bruins are the favourite in the matchup and the '-240' means that you'd need to bet $240 to win $100. As the underdogs, the Jets have a higher payout where betting $100 will return $200 in winnings.
NHL Puck Line bets are wagers on the scoring difference between the winning and losing sides. These are based on a 1.5 goal spread - meaning you can either take a bet on the underdog at +1.5 or the favourite at -1.5.
Here, the Bruins are the favourites at -240 in the Moneyline. This means that the Puck Line predicts a win by over 1.5 goals. As a result, bettors need to bet $105 to win just $100, which will only payout if the Bruins win by 2 or more goals.
On the other hand, the Jets are +200 underdogs and are unlikely to keep this game close, let alone win, so the online sportsbook here has given Jets bettors a greater chance to win some cash by making the odds -115 for their +1.5 Puck Line. This means betting $100 will payout winnings of $115 if the Jets can keep the game within 1 goal or if they win outright.
A 60-Minute Line is just like a Moneyline bet, but only includes the result at the end of 3 periods and therefore, also offers the option for a tie. This extra option allows for greater odds for either team winning, but with the possibility of overtime, a bet on the tie also brings added risk.
Over/Under or Totals
Betting on hockey totals simply means betting on whether the total goals will be over or under the line set by the sportsbooks. NHL totals bets are usually set around the 5/6 mark. Let's say the Jets vs Bruins Over/Under is set at 5.5 - betting the over means that there must be a total of 6 or more goals for the bet to win and the under will only payout if there are 5 or less goals in the game.
Prop bets are wagers on specific events happening, related to either the game itself (game props) or player performance (player props). Often seen as the more fun side of the odds, prop bets bring a lighter side to the market with bets that don't necessarily concern the outcome of the game.
Some examples of prop bets include:
Will Sydney Crosby score against the Jets?
Will the Bruins beat the Jets 4-2?
How many hits will Brady Tkachuk have?
A Parlay is a bet on multiple outcomes all occurring and only once they all come through, will the bet win. The Parlay could be a mixture of Moneyline bets, simply grouping together bets on the winners of every game in a night or week of the NHL.
Most sportsbooks will give bettors the opportunity to group Moneylines, with Props, Totals and Puck Line bets. As you might guess, parlay bettors can drastically boost their odds, as the likelihood of all bets occurring together is far smaller than the individual bets themselves.
The Grand Salami
The Grand Salami is similar to a parlay in that it groups together the outcomes of multiple wagers for one larger bet. It is specifically a bet on the total number of goals scored in all hockey games in a given night of the NHL. This gives NHL fans a vested interest in every game that evening. If there are around 8 games in a night, there will likely be between 40-50 total goals.
Futures bets are the long-term wagers found in the betting odds. The futures market will offer bets on the outcomes of events occurring far ahead in the season, including major events like the Stanley Cup winner. Futures odds will regularly change throughout the season as different events occur, like injuries and unsuspected victories changing the likelihood of long-term outcomes.
Most online sportsbooks will offer in-game, live betting on most of the wager types listed above except futures and the 60-minute lines. This is a fast paced, dynamic betting style with odds that are rapidly changing for short-lasting wagers. Live betting requires quick and confident decision making and is great for those who are watching the game wanting a piece of the action.