How to bet on the NHL – Best NHL betting sites

With single-game sports betting underway in Canada, there is no hotter ticket than NHL betting. No matter which sportsbook(s) you have available to you, there will be options for betting on every single game in the National Hockey League.

So, it is a good idea to know what kinds of bets you have available to you, how they work, and some of the fine print associated with betting on NHL games. This guide is your comprehensive resource for answering all of those questions.

NHL game odds

Best betting sites for NHL 2023

To place a bet, you will need to be in Ontario and age 19 or older. Find out more about sports betting in Ontario here, or click on the links below to sign up and download the app.

Betting on your favourite teams

Sports betting is fun because you can win money, but nothing sweetens the pot like betting on your favourite team in the NHL. Regardless of whether you’re in Alberta, Ontario, or one of the other provinces, there’s bound to be a team that you’d prefer be the target of your wagers. If so, check out our team pages for some of the top squads in the NHL:

Most popular wagers for NHL Betting

Let’s start with the most common wagers that bettors use for NHL games. Whether you favour the Flames, the Maple Leafs, the Senators, or one of the other teams in the league, you will find options for all of these wagers during the season.

NHL Moneylines

Moneylines are wagers on the eventual winner of the game. The manner in which the team wins is irrelevant, so long as you pick the victor correctly.

No single type of wagering is more fundamental to betting on NHL games than the moneyline. The relative paucity of scoring during hockey games creates difficulties for oddsmakers and sports bettors with other types of wagers. The simplicity of the moneyline concept allows it to avoid these problems. 

The hardest part of the moneyline is reading the odds and determining the payout structure for each game. However, don’t worry – it’s not that hard once you know how it works. Here’s a typical moneyline listing for an NHL game:

  • Toronto Maple Leafs: +150
  • Calgary Flames: -180

Moneyline listings consist of three-digit numbers assigned to each team in a matchup. Almost every listing will feature a positive number and a negative number. Occasionally, you may see two negative moneylines assigned to a contest, but never two positive moneylines.

Positive moneylines are given to the team expected to lose the matchup. In this case, the Toronto Maple Leafs are the game’s underdog.

The number, then, tells us how much you can expect to profit with a successful CAD 100 wager on the Leafs. A correct pick on the Toronto team would result in CAD 150 profit to you and an overall payout of CAD 250 (the profit plus your stake). 

Negative moneylines are reserved for the team thought to be the favourite in the game. So, in this hypothetical match, the Flames are expected to prevail.

The number next to the Flames’ name (or whomever the favourite may be) is the amount of money you must wager in order to profit CAD 100. Thus, you’d have to lay CAD 180 to be eligible for a CAD 100 profit on the team from Calgary. If you’re correct, you could expect a total payout of CAD 280.

If you do happen to come across a moneyline with two negatives, the sportsbook is indicating that it is assessing the two teams to be evenly matched. In this case, the team with the larger negative moneyline – the one farthest from zero – is the favourite, but not by very much.

Three-way moneylines

As you examine the different options for betting the moneyline on NHL games, you may encounter an odd-looking bet with three options. Based on the headings alone, it seems as though you can bet that the game can end in a tie. However, that doesn’t make sense, as ties have not been a viable condition to end a game since 2005.

You have discovered the three-way moneyline, which is a version of the moneyline usually reserved for soccer. In these wagers, you can bet that either team will win, or you can bet that they will end regulation even.

In other words, a bet on the draw option ignores the inevitable outcome of the overtime(s) and/or shootout. It is often called the “60-minute line” due to this cut-off point.

One thing to bear in mind, though, is that your wagers on either team to win are also subject to this limitation. If you bet that one team will win as part of the three-way option, your bet is lost unless the team is ahead at the end of regulation. The fact that it prevailed in the shootout does nothing to the outcome of your wager.

However, if you believe two teams to be equally matched, a bet that they won’t have a clear winner after the third period might make sense.

NHL Puck Lines

As mentioned, the small amounts of scoring in a typical NHL game create issues for some wagers. The primary bet type affected by this feature is the point spread. So, oddsmakers use a workaround known as the “puck line” to deal with the structural problem endemic to hockey games.

With the puck line, the book assigns a positive and negative spread to each team, as it normally would in a typical spread bet. However, the spread on each and every game is fixed at 1.5 goals. So, a puck line might look something like this:

  • Ottawa Senators -1.5 +200
  • Edmonton Oilers +1.5 -220

If you didn’t notice immediately, the payout ratios for puck lines vary much more dramatically than they do in a typical spread wager. Spread payouts usually hover around -110, but puck line payouts are usually closer to moneylines in their values. The variation accounts for the differences between the two teams, since the spread is almost always set in stone at 1.5 goals.

Notice, however, that this variation may create an oddly “reversed” situation within the listing. In our example, the Oilers are judged to be the underdogs in the matchup. However, either the book or the smart money believes that the Oilers are far more likely to cover the 1.5-goal spread than the Senators are to beat the Edmonton team by two or more goals. So, even though the Senators are “favoured,” a wager on them to beat the spread is the less likely outcome.

In rare cases, you may see the puck line drift by as much as a goal to 2.5. If you see this situation, there is an expectation that the typical low scoring may not occur in the game. A high-powered offense facing off against a hapless defensive team could set the stage for some fireworks and a lot of goals. In those cases, it’s tempting to think the favourite to be a sure thing, but you should still consider how likely such a spread is to occur.

NHL Totals (Over/Under)

The totals bet, or the over/under, appears in NHL betting unchanged from its other incarnations in different sports. The oddsmakers estimate the total number of goals that both teams will combine to score, and you wager whether the estimate is high or low. If it’s high, you bet the “under.” If it’s low, you bet the “over.”

One thing to note is that, like the puck line, totals are usually published in half-points, rather than full goals. Sportsbooks usually produce decimal estimates to avoid having to deal with ties or draws.

NHL Futures

NHL futures are reserved for questions about the end of the season. Unless it comes down to the wire, there is no single game that determines the outcome of a futures wager.

Instead, futures wagers revolve around the eventual winners of team or individual awards. The most obvious candidate for this type of bet, of course, is which team will win the Stanley Cup. However, there are usually several more opportunities to make futures bets on the NHL, including:

  • Conference winners
  • Division winners
  • Whether a team will make or miss the playoffs
  • Over/under on total points a team scores during the season
  • Over/under on wins a team will acquire during the season
  • Individual award winners, such as the Hart and Vezina trophies

Futures are usually listed with long lists of candidates. It’s not uncommon to see odds for every team in the NHL to win the Cup – even those that clearly have no chance from the beginning of the season.

Beside each candidate, you’ll see a payout ratio in moneyline form. For the most part, every single ratio in a listing will be positive – even the “favourite” to win the bet. Although this may seem curious, the reality is that there are many variables over the course of the season, and few teams are more likely to win than the collective chance some other team will win.

NHL Propositions

Proposition wagers, or prop bets, are standard fare for betting on NHL games. They offer ancillary options for bettors who are looking for ways to expand their betting profiles and consider other aspects of the games. 

Proposition bets usually involve a binary choice for you, the sports bettor. The book will present a question to you, and you’ll answer “yes” or “no” with the way that you wager. In some cases, you might see multiple choices, which will look similar to a small-scale futures wager. Some examples of prop bets you might encounter would be:

  • Will Player X score during the game?
  • Which team will have more shots on goal (not goals)?
  • Will Team A accrue more than 5 minutes of penalty time?

No matter how a prop bet comes along, each response will bear a moneyline payout that will give you a clue about how either the book or the smart bettors think the bet will go. So, you’ll

NHL Live Betting

Live betting is the fast-paced proposition wager subtype that has become a ubiquitous part of wagering for most online sportsbooks. For NHL games, live betting, or in-game wagering, takes small chunks of the game and boils out simple questions about them. So, you might see live betting options like:

  • Is Team B going to score during this power play?
  • Is either team going to score before this period ends?
  • Is the coach going to pull the goalie in the final minutes?

You get the idea. Be aware, though, that you won’t have the same time to consider an in-game bet that you do for pregame propositions or, for that matter, any other type of bet. They come and go quite quickly, so you have to be ready to act.

NHL Parlays

Parlays combine several individual bets into one conglomerated wager. Since the bets that go into a parlay can be pulled from roughly any market, NHL games are perfectly fair game for them. 

Each bet that goes into a parlay is known as a “leg.” Every parlay contains at least two legs, and could potentially bear an unlimited number of them. However, in practice, most sportsbooks set the maximum number of legs permitted in a parlay between 12 and 15.

The catch with parlays is the fact that you must correctly predict every single leg in your wager in order to win. You might have 9 straight legs go your way, but lose the 10th in the waning seconds of the game and watch your profit go down the drain.

Needless to say, parlays are high-risk wagers, and the risks escalate dramatically with each additional leg in the bet. However, they are also high-reward propositions. You could conceivably receive a profit in excess of 200 times your wager amount if you win a 10-leg parlay or higher, and even the smallest parlays are likely to pay out at greater than 2:1. 

So, feel free to fold up NHL bets into a parlay, if you like. You certainly have a chance to win big. However, bear in mind that it is quite unlikely, so never bet a parlay with money that you need – for anything.

Typical sportsbook rules for NHL betting

No matter the type of wager you choose to use for your NHL betting, you need to be aware of some of the fine print associated with these bets. Although individual sportsbooks may vary in their exact applications of rules, the bullets below are mostly universal for NHL bettors. 

  • Most of the bets you make before the game use any overtime and shootout periods in determining their outcomes.
  • However, any wagers that mention “regulation only” or “60 minutes” do not include any extra time, and could lead to lost bets if the game is tied at the conclusion of the third period.
  • Player prop bets include any activities that occur during overtimes, but not during shootouts. 
  • Player propositions are subject to voids and refunds if the listed player does not play during any part of the game. 
  • Bets are considered active as soon as the first puck drops, even if the beginning of the game is slightly delayed. A bet will be voided and refunded to the bettor only in cases where a game is cancelled outright.
  • If an entire NHL season happens to be cancelled, all futures wagers pertaining to that season are subject to refunds.

Provincial lottery odds vs. commercial odds

For most Canadians, there is a single choice in their home province for betting on the NHL. Outside of Ontario, the only option for betting is through the individual provincial lotteries. So, you may not have much choice in terms of the odds that you can get, but it’s important to understand the difference between those odds and the odds in a commercial market like Ontario.

Unsurprisingly, you are far more likely to find favourable odds in Ontario than you are with Proline, PlayNow, or any of the other services that operate as monopolies in the other provinces. The commercial market and powers of competition mean that oddsmakers simply don’t have the leeway that the provincial lotteries’ oddsmakers have at their disposal with a (somewhat) captive customer base. 

Furthermore, there may not be as many NHL games or wagers you can make with the provincial lotteries that you can with commercial ones. In either case, you have to take what you have available. But, it’s important to know what it’s like on the other side.

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