Ice Hockey is one of the most popular sports in the USA and Canada, with millions of fans watching games every day during the NHL season.
And here at Unibet we’re witnessing a huge increase in fans wanting to bet on NHL during matches and throughout the season! That’s why we’ve created a section of our sportsbook dedicated solely to ice hockey betting, so you can maximise your experience when following games.
The NHL is by far the biggest and best ice hockey league in the world. But there is also a massive following in Russia, Finland, Sweden and Norway. European ice hockey is developing fast but it still has a long way to catch up with North America!
In this guide we will explain the rule of ice hockey, so even newcomers to the sport can grasp the basics with ease. We will also go through the main bet types associated with ice hockey — and some of the key intricacies experienced ice hockey betting experts use to maximise their odds. Unibet also gives you information on other sports like in our NFL Betting Guide.
Ice hockey is a thrilling sport and you can now enjoy it even more with Unibet!
How ice hockey works
Ice hockey is a sport played on an ice rink, where two teams aim to score in the opposition goal, using sticks, skates and a small puck. The puck is what ice hockey players hit with their sticks and it glides along the ice extremely fast. Each team is made up of six players, including one goal tender.
Games take place over three periods of 20 minutes each, so a regular game has one hour of action. However, there are breaks and timeouts in ice hockey, which means the total time to complete a game lasts much longer. Each team has a maximum of 20 players and they are regularly rotating in and out of the rink.
The game starts with a face off in the middle of the rink and players battle for possession of the puck. Ice hockey is a tough game and physicality is almost encouraged at times. However, some players will incur penalties for overly physical behaviour and can sit a time out in the stands.
Unlike basketball, there are no extra points for scoring a goal from distance. That means each goal counts as only one point, regardless of how or where it was scored. Players can skate behind the goal area — which is uncommon in many other ‘goal’ sports such as soccer and field hockey.
Teams in the NHL average between 2.5 and 2.9 goals per game, so there is almost guaranteed to be goalmouth action during games.
Ice hockey is also played on the international stage at the Ice Hockey World Championships, as well as the Olympics. In Europe, clubs also compete in the Champions Hockey League, with the best teams from the most competitive ice hockey-playing countries participating each year.
How to bet on ice hockey
Betting on ice hockey is simple if you’re new to the sport. And with a bit of experience you can become an expert in how to bet on ice hockey. The best place to start when you bet on ice hockey for the first time is match betting. This is when you bet on which team you think will win the match. Easy, right? Now, the NHL does not accept ties, so a game level on points after three periods will head to overtime, until there is a winner. This makes match betting even easier, as you can only bet on two outcomes: win or lose.
For example: You bet on the Rangers to beat the Canucks in an NHL game. If the Rangers win, you win your bet.
While match betting is a great way to get started on the NHL, there are ways of improving the odds and making it even more fun. This is known as handicap betting and is a way of levelling out an uneven match. For example: the Blues are heavy favourites at 1/4 to beat the Sabres. Their odds are so small that it’s not really worth betting on. What the handicap does is even out the odds by adding an imaginary advantage / disadvantage onto the scores.
So in this case, you could bet on the Blues to win with a -3.5 goal handicap, at more interesting odds of 2/1. The Blues must win by four goals or more for you to win your bet! Likewise, you could bet on the Sabres to win with a +4.5 goal handicap. So long as the Sabres don’t lose by more than five goals, you win your bet.
Over/Under betting is also popular in ice hockey. NHL games average between five and six goals, so many fans like to bet on whether or not a certain goal total will be surpassed. For example: you think a game between the Sharks and Flames will exceed 4.5 goals. You can bet on +4.5 total goals in the Over/Under market. If that fifth goal is scored, you win your bet.
Likewise, if you think the Sharks vs Flames clash could be a boring match, you may back -3.5 total goals. If there are three goals scored or fewer, you win the bet.
Unlike basketball or NFL betting, where the sports attract big scores, it is easy to bet on the final score in ice hockey. This is because rare do teams score more than six goals. It means you can predict with some level of confidence what the score might be. Here at Unibet you can choose the exact score you think the game will produce and see the odds immediately on our sportsbook. Of course, the more unlikely the score, the higher the odds.
Ice hockey player betting
You can also bet on individual players when betting on ice hockey. This is a great way to follow one player, even if you don’t support the team! You can bet on the first goalscorer in any NHL game. The best players will have the shortest odds, while those on the periphery of the team will have their odds lengthened. Still, it takes a shrewd punters to work out which player will score first.
You can also bet on which player will be sin binned first, as well as assist makers and even if a player will hit the post with a shot! There are loads of markets for individual player betting on ice hockey and we’re constantly working on bringing you even more.
Keep an eye out during the Stanley Cup in particular. This is when we offer big player specials on some of the weirdest outcomes you can think of in sport.
One exciting player market in ice hockey is when you pit one player against another. This player special could be on which of the two individuals scores more goals in a game. The market also attracts handicaps, so you could back an Islanders player to score more than a Flyers star, with a +1.5 handicap.
Season bets in the NHL
Like most sports in the Unibet sportsbook, you can bet on season-long markets in ice hockey. The biggest bet is usually who will win the Stanley Cup. This is the NHL’s championship, where one team from 30 in the league eventually wins the title. You can bet on who will win the Stanley Cup before the season even begins!
Season-long bets in the NHL also take in MVP markets, where you bet on who will be voted the most valuable player of the campaign. The crowned player almost always comes from the team that wins the Stanley Cup that season.
Outside of the NHL, you can bet on which country will win the Ice Hockey World Championships, and who will win gold at the Olympics. Club hockey in Europe is also a big deal, with teams competing in the Champions Hockey League. The CHL was only launched in 2014 but has enjoyed huge growth and interest over its early years. Teams from Sweden have generally dominated the competition, but Finnish, German and Swiss sides are also proving competitive in the continental tournament.
Bet on ice hockey In Play
Like most sports, Unibet is dedicated to bringing you In Play hockey betting live and uninterrupted. We know fans enjoy betting on ice hockey during games, as well as before! That’s why our sportsbook has a dedicated In Play section so you can bet while the action is unfolding.
The beauty of In Play betting is that you’re in control of the decisions you make. You can read the game, understand the plays and work out what you think will happen next. If a player is having a strong game, you may back them to score the next goal. Or, if a goalie is enduring a nightmare day, you might back the opposition to score three more times before the game ends.
In Play betting will transform your ice hockey watching experience and give you an even deeper insight into the sport!