How to Bet on Hockey

You may not know the difference between icing and offsides, but if you understand the basic concepts of sports betting, such as the moneyline, you do know how to bet the NHL. As you’ll see, placing wagers on the National Hockey League is quite similar to baseball. The same basics come into play; the main difference is that the run line is called the “puck line.”

Betting the NHL is a bit different than betting on many of the European leagues, as there can’t be a tie in the NHL, but some European leagues and international tournaments still have games end deadlocked. We’ll look at those differences a little bit later.

The National Hockey League ranks a distant fourth of the four major sports in the United States, both in terms of overall popularity and in handle, as people like to bet on events they watch. As with baseball, the sport’s use of the moneyline doesn’t help matters, as many people are unfamiliar with this concept and haven’t taken the time to learn how it works.

The moneyline is the most common method of betting the NHL, although there is also a puck line, as well as totals and parlays. A number of sportsbooks also offer the “Grand Salami,” the combined total of all the games played on a particular day.

Nearly every sportsbook uses a 20-cent line on the National Hockey League. This is the difference between the odds on the favorite and the underdog. But as with other sports, such as baseball, the odds on an extremely large favorite will often be greater than the 20 cents.

The odds on a typical National Hockey League game may look like:

Pittsburgh +110
Washington -130

This means that Washington bettors are risking $130 to win $100, while Pittsburgh  bettors put up $100 to win $110.

But the odds on a game with a larger favorite are more inclined to look like:

Toronto +250
Detroit -300

The larger difference in odds is typical in all sports, not just hockey, so it isn’t as if hockey bettors are being singled out by the sportsbooks.

The Puck Line

The puck line works in the same manner as baseball’s run line. The team that’s favored to win the game will be -1.5 goals, while the underdog receives 1.5 goals. Here’s the puck line using the same two games:

Pittsburgh +1.5 (-240)
Washington -1.5 (+200)

Toronto +1.5 (-110)
Detroit -1.5 (-110)

Pittsburgh bettors win their wagers if the Penguins win the game or lose by one goal, while Washington bettors can only win if the Capitals win by two goals or more. But Pittsburgh bettors now risk $240 to win $100 and Washington bettors are risking $100 to win $200.

Likewise, Toronto bettors win their bets if the Maple Leafs win or lose by one goal and Detroit bettors will only win their bet if the Red Wings win by two or more goals.

Hockey Totals

Hockey bettors can also bet on the total. As with baseball, sportsbooks are hesitant to move the over/under when one side is getting the majority of the wagers, and are much more likely to adjust the odds instead, going from the standard -110 up to -120, betting $120 to win $100. Those betting the under then wager even money or +100, as totals nearly always use a 20-cent line. If bets keep coming in the over, the bookmaker will continue to adjust the odds, up to $150 or more to win $100.

So totals can take on several different forms, but will nearly always look like one of the two following examples:

Pittsburgh vs. Washington over 5.5 (-110)
Pittsburgh vs. Washington under 5.5 (-110)

Detroit vs. Toronto over 5.5 (-135)
Detroit vs. Toronto under 5.5 (+115)

In the first example, bettors wager $110 to win $100 regardless if they bet the over or the under. This is sometimes referred to as “5.5-flat,” -110 on both the over and under.

In the second example, bettors on the over have to put up $135 to win $100, while under bettors risk $100 to win $115. This is commonly referred to as “5.5-over.”


Parlays are also available for NHL games and, as with all moneyline parlays, the payouts are determined by the odds of each selection in the parlay. The same formula for calculating any other moneyline parlay can be used for hockey. Bettors can choose from money-line, puck-line, and totals when placing a parlay.

Grand Salami

The Grand Salami is one of the great betting traditions when it comes to the NHL. It has been around for many years and a number of sportsbooks still offer the bet to satisfy longtime hockey fans. The Grand Salami is an over/under wager that includes all the games on the schedule each day. If there are five games on the schedule, the Grand Salami will be roughly 26 to 28.5, while a 10-game schedule will likely see a number between 53 and 57. As with single-game totals, there will be times when the over or under rise to -125 to -140.

International Hockey

Some European hockey leagues, such as the KHL, use the shootout in the same manner as the National Hockey League, while many others don’t. In leagues where the shootout isn’t used, many times the favorite will be -.5 goals, so the underdog wins in case of a tie game.

Different sportsbooks have different approaches to international hockey. Some always use the half-goal line in order to avoid having to refund all wagers in case of a tie game, while others treat it the same as any other sport. In a Swedish SHL game, Frolunda was playing Lulea and the differing philosophies of sportsbooks was evident. One sportsbook had Lulea -140 and Frolunda +110, while another had Lulea -.5 (+115) and Frolunda +.5 (-152).

Vast differences of talent show up between teams in a number of international events, with the Olympics the most obvious example. Many times, you won’t find moneyline odds or totals on games expected to be complete mismatches. Instead, you’ll see essentially a pointspread posted on the game. It isn’t unusual to see to see one team favored by 5.5 to 8.5 goals. In women’s hockey the disparity is even greater and teams such as the United States or Canada can be favored by 10 goals or more.