How to Bet on Ice Hockey

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How to Bet on Ice Hockey

This guide covers everything you need to know when placing bets on ice hockey…

Popular Ice Hockey Leagues  

Although very popular in certain parts of the world, Ice Hockey does not have a global following. This is due, in part, to the fact that the sport is predominantly played in countries where there is a prevalence of snow and ice.

The most popular competition among bettors is the NHL (National Hockey League), which is the major professional ice hockey league for the United States and Canada. The second tier is the AHL (American Hockey League), which also comprises teams from the U.S. and Canada, and is seen as the development league for the NHL.

In Eastern Europe, the KHL (Kontinental Hockey League) is very competitive. At the start of the 2023/24 season the league comprised 23 teams; 20 from Russia and one each from Belarus, Kazakhstan and China. The trophy for the winning team is called the Gagarin Cup, named after Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

Amongst the most popular domestic leagues you’ll find are the SHL (Sweden), Extraliga (Czech Republic), DEL (Germany), SM-Liiga (Finland) and National League (Switzerland). You’ll discover a whole range of betting opportunities on all these leagues, and many others, on the Marathonbet website and mobile app.

NHL Betting Guide  

The NHL currently comprises 32 teams—25 based in the United States and seven in Canada. The number of competing teams has grown over the years, with the Vegas Golden Knights (2017) and Seattle Kraken (2021) being the two most recently added franchises and the first new teams since 2000. There have also been many instances of teams being renamed or moving their franchise to a different area.

In the regular season each team plays 82 matches, with games split across four divisions and two conferences. The Western Conference comprises the Pacific Division and Central Division, whilst the Eastern Conference is made up of the Atlantic Division and Metropolitan Division. Each division consists of eight teams.

At the end of the regular season, there are a series of playoff matches to decide who’ll be crowned NHL champions. Sixteen teams qualify for the playoffs, with the top-three finishers in each division (12 teams) qualifying and wild-card spots for the two next best teams in each conference (4 teams).     

All playoff games are conducted according to a best-of-seven format, where the team that first secures four victories advances to the subsequent round or, in the case of the final game, wins the trophy.

With so many matches to fulfil during the regular season, teams will play several times a week, and often on successive nights. As a bettor, keep a close eye on momentum shifts, injuries, etc., as you may see some value in the match odds with the action coming thick and fast.

Stanley Cup Finals  

The Stanley Cup Finals refer to the sequence of games played between the victors of the Western Conference and Eastern Conference, which will determine the NHL champion for that particular season. The series, which is a best-of-seven format, continues until one team achieves four victories.

The Stanley Cup is the oldest professional sports trophy in North America, dating back to 1892. It was donated by Lord Stanley of Preston, who was the Governor General of Canada at the time. 

At the start of the 2023/24 NHL season, the most successful team was the Montreal Canadiens with 24 Stanley Cup victories to their name. The next best side is another Canadian side, the Toronto Maple Leafs. They have amassed 13 titles, although the last one was over 50 years ago in 1967. The Detroit Red Wings have the best record of the American sides. They have reached the Stanley Cup Finals 24 times and been victorious on 11 occasions.

International Ice Hockey Competitions

At national level, men’s Ice Hockey initially appeared at the Summer Olympics in 1920, before moving to the Winter Olympics permanently in 1924. The women’s tournament was added to the Winter Olympics in 1998.

The IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) men’s Ice Hockey World Championship is a yearly competition split into different levels. Currently, the top level has 16 teams split into two divisions of eight teams. The top four teams in each progress to the playoffs, whilst the bottom team in each drops down to the second tier.

Ice Hockey Betting Explained

In the following sections, we’ll look at some of the most popular markets available when betting on ice hockey. Once you familiarise yourself with these markets, you can then make your picks and place your bets!  

Betting on which team will win the match

When placing a bet on who you think will win an ice hockey game, you will need to consider the two different markets available for your bets. Whilst they may appear to have a similar meaning, there is one big difference.

Ice Hockey – Match Result

This is a 3-way market (1X2), which includes a price on the game to be drawn at the end of regular time. In this market, overtime does not count and, in the event of a drawn match, bets on either team are losing ones. In the screenshot below, there’s a 3-way market for two NHL games. As is the case in some other American sports, the away side is listed before the home side.

Match result betting on two NHL matches
Match result betting on two NHL matches

Ice Hockey – Match Winner

This is a 2-way market (1,2), which includes any overtime and shootouts played. This is the safer option if you are betting on one of the individual teams, as your bet excludes a draw in regular time. However, as your risk is lower, the odds offered will be less generous to reflect that. In the screenshot below, you can see how the prices vary on this market for the Winnipeg Jets @ Toronto Maple Leafs match when compared to the 1X2 odds in the previous screenshot.

Match winner betting on Winnipeg Jets @ Toronto Maple Leafs in the NHL
Match winner betting on Winnipeg Jets @ Toronto Maple Leafs in the NHL

Handicap Betting

As in many other sports, handicap betting is also popular when betting on ice hockey. In these bets, one of the teams is given a hypothetical advantage over their opponents by a given number of goals.

There will be a range of different handicaps offered on the score at the end of regular time, including Handicap (0). This is the same as wagering on a draw-no-bet market. You can tailor your bet to the risk level you feel comfortable with, depending on the confidence you have in your selection.

In the example below, you can see the full range of handicaps offered on a particular match and how the odds vary depending on the line selected.

Handicap betting (puck line) on Winnipeg Jets @ Toronto Maple Leafs in the NHL
Handicap betting (puck line) on Winnipeg Jets @ Toronto Maple Leafs in the NHL

What is the puck line?

You will often see references to the ‘puck line’ when looking at ice hockey betting markets. The puck line is simply another way of describing the handicap line or goal spread.

Betting on under/over total goals markets

Will your chosen match be a high-scoring game or a dour affair? Use your powers of prediction when placing bets on the number of goals scored, but remember that this market is also based on what happens in regular time only. You can check all the ice hockey rules in the Marathonbet ‘Help’ section.

In addition to a range of choices for the total goals in a game, you can also place bets on individual goal totals for either of the teams.

Betting on the number of goals scored in an NHL match
Betting on the number of goals scored in an NHL match

How many periods are there in an ice hockey game?

Unlike many sports that are split into halves or quarters, an ice hockey game is split into three 20-minute periods.

Can I place bets on individual periods?

Yes, in most ice hockey matches you can bet on what will happen in a specific period of the match. In the following screenshot, you can see the various markets offered on the 1st period in the match. Similar markets are also available for the 2nd and 3rd periods.

Betting odds based on the 1st period in an NHL match
Betting odds based on the 1st period in an NHL match

Betting on goals in ice hockey

As well as betting markets offered on ‘under/over total goals’, there are also many options available on ‘to score’ or ‘not to score’. You’ll find these listed in the ‘Goals’ section, where you can bet on whether something will happen or not!

A list of markets based on ‘to score’ or ‘not to score’
A list of markets based on ‘to score’ or ‘not to score’

How will the match be decided?

There are various ways an ice hockey match can be decided. The majority of games will be concluded with a positive result during regular time; however, a game tied at that stage will then see a period of overtime played. Overtime periods vary in length but are all decided on a sudden-death basis. If there are no further goals in the defined overtime period, then the match will be decided by a penalty shootout in most cases. There are some exceptions to this rule, including a tie in an NHL playoff match, where the overtime periods continue until a winner is decided.

Betting odds on Method of Victory and How Will a Match End in ice hockey
Betting odds on Method of Victory and How Will a Match End in ice hockey

Multiple and Accumulator betting

With a wide choice of ice hockey matches available every day, you can enhance your enjoyment by combining more than one selection in the same bet.

This gives you the potential for higher winnings but, with each extra selection added, the bet becomes harder to win.

Accumulators (parlays)

These bets are the most straightforward. You pick two or more selections to win, and if all your selections are successful, your bet is a winner. In the bet slip below, a €2 accumulator bet is being placed on four selections. The total price for all the teams to win is shown (34.025), as are the potential returns (€68.05) for all selections winning.

An accumulator bet on ice hockey
An accumulator bet on ice hockey

System bets

A system bet is another way to describe a mixture of several accumulator bets placed simultaneously. In these bets, you do not need all your selections to win to get a payout.

Using the same four teams as above, if the ‘System’ tab is clicked, different bet types will become available in the drop-down menu. You will have a choice between a ‘System 2/4’ bet or ‘System 3/4′ bet.

Here, we have selected the latter option, which means you are betting on each different permutation of three teams. As there are four different permutations, your total stake will be four times your unit stake.

If we refer to the selections as A, B, C and D, the four different permutations of three teams (trebles) are:

A, B, C

A, B, D

A, C, D

B, C, D

A bet slip showing NHL matches in a system bet
A bet slip showing NHL matches in a system bet

If three of your selections are successful, you’ll be paid at the accumulative odds on those three winning selections. If all four selections are successful, then you’ll have four winning (treble) bets.

The more selections you add, the more bet types become available. Bear in mind that, if you wish to place more than one bet on the same selections, you can use the select the ‘Retain selections in slip after placement’ check box, and your picks will remain in the bet slip after your previous bet has been placed.

This can be helpful, for example, if you want to place a system 3/4 bet as well as an accumulator bet on the same four selections without having to reselect them a second time.

Multiple bets

A multiple bet is where selections are combined to cover all possible permutations.

A bet slip showing NHL matches in a multiple bet

In this example, the bet type ‘Yankee’ has been chosen for the four selections. There are 11 different permutations, with the total bet costing 11 times the unit stake.

The 11 bets comprise six doubles, four trebles and an accumulator. You can find a full description here.

If just two of the four selections are successful, you will get a return. As you can see from the bet slip, if all four are successful, the payout will be €132.71 for a €1 Yankee (€11 total stake).

Live (in-play) Ice Hockey Betting

Placing a bet on an Ice Hockey game after the initial face-off has got the action underway is an exciting way to follow a match. You’ll discover a wide range of betting options, including all the usual markets, with prices continually updated as the puck flies across the ice. In the image below, you can see the main markets plus 283 additional betting opportunities available on the Edmonton Oilers @ Dallas Stars match before play has commenced.

Number of ice hockey markets available at the start of live betting
Number of ice hockey markets available at the start of live betting

As a game develops, choose which markets you are interested in and watch the prices fluctuate. When you feel the opportune moment has arrived, place your bet and cheer on your selection.

The time played in the match is shown next to the teams or, as in the case below, ‘Break’ will show when the match is between periods. 

Updated list of odds on an in-play ice hockey match
Updated list of odds on an in-play ice hockey match

For the more adventurous bettor, correct score betting will be offered on many ice hockey matches. This can be the overall match score, which excludes overtime, or the score in any individual period.

As you can see from the list of odds below, the shortest price on any of the overall match score options is 12.50 (on a 3-3 draw). A successful bet on this market can provide a nice win relative to the size of the stake. 

A list of correct score prices for the match outright and for the first period
A list of correct score prices for the match outright and for the first period

Ice Hockey Betting Strategies

When checking through the odds and deciding which bet to place on a game, don’t forget to check out the statistics.

On the Marathonbet site, you’ll find a list of each team’s recent results, as well as their head-to-head meetings, on the match statistics page. Here, you can check for trends, changes in form, high or low scoring games, etc., which may give an insight into how the next match will pan out.

You may also want to check the team’s website to see if there are any significant injuries to important players.

Ice Hockey Outright Betting

Outright betting is available on many domestic ice hockey leagues and cups, as well as international tournaments. The odds will be updated throughout the season or competition, and in the case of the NHL, there are also prices available on which team will win each of the Eastern and Western Conferences.

On some competitions, each-way betting will be available. In the image below, you can see outright betting on the NHL with the current each-way terms displayed in the top right corner—EW:1/2 1,2 (1/2 the odds for finishing in the first two places). Depending on the stage of the season, and how competitive the odds are, the each-way terms will change or may not be available at all. However, the place terms at the time you place your outright bet are fixed and will be applied to that bet.

Outright betting on the NHL, to win the Stanley Cup
Outright betting on the NHL, to win the Stanley Cup

Make sure to bear in mind, when betting on the outright markets, that most divisions finish with playoffs to decide the title, and your bet will be on who wins the competition after the playoffs have concluded. Make sure you check the rules before placing your bet.

Ice Hockey Betting FAQs

How do I bet on an ice hockey match?

Head to the Marathonbet website and select ice hockey, either in the ‘Sport’ or ‘Live’ section.

In the Sport section, you can expand the category to see a full list of all the countries on which domestic ice hockey prices are currently available, as well as any international tournaments and competitions which feature teams from more than one country, such as the NHL.

If you expand the category in the Live section, you’ll see a list of all the current live matches. If you click on the heading ‘Ice Hockey’, a full list of all games will be presented on the page including the competitions in which those matches are being played. 

How do I bet on the puck line?

On the Marathonbet site, you’ll find the puck line odds shown as handicap betting. This is simply another way to describe the same market, in which you are predicting the outcome of the match after one of the teams is given a hypothetical negative or positive head start in terms of goals. The odds for each puck line are adjusted accordingly, depending on the size of the start given or conceded.

What is a moneyline bet in ice hockey?

This is simply another way to refer to a bet on the two-way Match Winner market, including overtime. However, on occasions, you may see references to a three-way moneyline. In those cases, it will include a price for the game to be tied and will apply to regular time only.

How many players are there in an ice hockey team?

There are six players on the ice for each side at any time, including the goaltender. There are normally 20 players available for each match, substitutions can be made throughout, and players can come back on after being substituted.

Why are there fights in an ice hockey match?

Ice hockey is a very physical sport, where part of the tactics often involve blocking opposition players. This is allowed, but on occasions it can lead to punch-ups between rival players. Depending on the severity, players will often be penalised with a time-out period. The length can vary, from two minutes up to 10 minutes, or even expulsion in the worst cases. 

What is a power play?

A power play in ice hockey is a period of play in which one team is a player down due to a penalty. If a goal is scored by the opposing team during this period, the player who was taken off the rink can re-enter immediately, even if their allotted penalty time was not yet reached.

Can I cash out my ice hockey bet?

You can Cash Out your ice hockey bet, as you can on many other sports.

Nonetheless, it’s important to remember that the Cash Out feature isn’t accessible for every game. Depending on the events unfolding in a particular game, the Cash Out feature might be temporarily disabled or completely withdrawn during that game.

Additionally, only selected types of bets, selections and markets have the Cash Out option.

A Cash Out banner
A Cash Out banner

You may also use the Auto Cash Out or Partial Cash Out functions when they are available.

Can I use my Free Bet on an ice hockey game?

Yes, if you have a Free Bet on your account, it can be placed as a win-only single on any Sportsbook event. Your Free Bet can be placed on any pre-match or live (in-play) event.

If your selection is a winning one, the winnings from bets placed using your Free Bet will be paid as withdrawable funds; however, your Free Bet stake will not be returned with any winnings.


If you’ve found this article interesting, why not take a look at our other sports betting guides?

How to Bet on Football;

How to Bet on Tennis;

How to Bet on Basketball.