by Nikki Adams
Betting on ice hockey might seem daunting, overwhelming or, even, in the eyes of some bettors just plain dull. Whichever way you slice it, there is lots of value to be had for the smart hockey bettor. Seems a waste not to at least give it a whirl. Just a few facets to the game in the context of sports betting markets and rudimentary fundamental strategies any would-be bettor must appreciate first before embarking on an exercise that could be very successful and potentially profitable.
Primarily, hockey is a money line betting sport. For the uninitiated bettor, money line betting means simply betting on a team to win straight up in any given game. In other words, betting on a team to win. Full stop.
That’s quite different to football and basketball betting trends for instance that lean overwhelmingly towards spread lines rather than the money line. (Without getting too much into spread betting, it’s simply betting on a team to win or lose within a pre-set amount of points. Similarly, the total is about predicting the score cracking a pre-set total or not).
It’s the function of the low-scoring nature of hockey compared to most other sports where teams can run away with the score that makes hockey ideal for money line betting. Rarely does one see hockey games for instance settled in double-digit scores.
Ufff, a low-scoring affair. How off-putting is that, right? Why would anybody want to bet on ice hockey when markets offer a limited selection of hockey bets? Not least many of which sound as if they wholly lack in colour and flavour.
Where’s the thrill, the edge-of-seat action, the adrenaline and excitement seeing your bet come to fruition.
Well, curiously enough, it’s precisely for those very lacklustre reasons that hockey betting and namely NHL free picks betting is a bit of a hidden treasure, overlooked by many avid sports bettors. And the thrill is in the sheer volume of betting available at your fingertips in terms of number of games in a season and size of the field in play.
Sports books are in the business of making money. The bigger the audience the bigger their profits are, so it follows the allocation of resources go primarily towards the so-called cash cow sports (American football and basketball) that have global betting audiences which they can tap into. Hockey audiences don’t compare: NHL is whittled down to the United States and its neighboring Canadian brethren while top European hockey leagues draw a regional audience.
NHL is quite popular in North America and for the Canadian portion of the continent it’s as important as air and water is to their daily lives. Granted there are several European hockey powerhouse countries such as Sweden, Russia, Czech Republic and Finland (to name a few) that have huge hockey fan bases of their own, all well aware of what the NHL is. Heck, many of the best players from those nations aspire to play in the NHL and realise that aspiration at some point in their careers.
As far as following the NHL in Europe or, in turn, betting on it, it simply doesn’t transcend the Atlantic pond. Time difference between North America and Europe makes it challenging, but mainly national and regional pride has most following their own very good quality domestic hockey leagues closer than they do the NHL
In the broad spectrum of sports betting profit, that amounts to a drop in the bucket for sports books. Consequently, hockey money lines might not be as well thought through as they would be in the NFL say.
Length of a hockey season and size of the field are a couple of other reasons why NHL lines might not be thought out adequately enough. The NHL is 82-games deep (that doesn’t include a lengthy postseason that could go just as high across the entire field).
Almost every day of the season an NHL matchup is to be had on the sports betting floor, and, in many cases, teams will play back-to-back games both home and away. That never happens in American football or European football (that’s soccer to us on this side of the Atlantic).
The sheer intensity of the game and its schedule means bookies have to go to press with lines quickly and the turnaround on lines is much shorter. Anticipating how teams stack up in such a hectic environment presents another handicapping challenge. Invariably, the game sees a lot of line juggling by coaches, be it down to frequent injuries, fluctuating form of players or a player simply falling out of favors with staff or teammates…and other scenarios.
What all this spells: advantage to savvy bettors who recognize and capitalize on money lines that offer decided value.