US Hockey - An Introduction
Hockey in the U.S. is steadily gaining gambling popularity, as well as turnstile support. Some old-time bettors are still wary, claiming that, like soccer, the scoring is more accidental than contrived. However, that hypothesis is still up for grabs, as a new breed of followers are being developed, 'and better clubs continually have more "accidents" than incidents. Nevertheless, hockey betting volume is steadily increasing year after year, as the sport gains impetus.
As in football and basketball, the game uses a goal spread and becomes a 6-5 or 11-10 pick 'em affair with the bookies. However, unlike the others, scoring pucks are limited with the majority of games seeing 5 or 6 goals average total for both clubs in the 3 periods. This, in turn, keeps the goal-spot spread conservative from "evens" or 1/2 to a usual maximum of 2-1/2 pucks. (Any spread at 2-1/2 or more goals is inviting blind optimism over reason.) Because of the low scoring inherent in the game, the bettor needs every handicapping edge, in his favor to buck the puckspread.
The pointspread system is varied in hockey compared to football and basketball, inasmuch as two spots are quoted on the puck line.
This means if you favour the Kings, the puck line is MINUS 1-1/2 goals. If you like the "dog" opponent, your spot is PLUS 1 goal. Some of betting is done on period scores as well.
More so than other sports, home ice proves statistically to be advantageous. While rink dimensions are fairly standardised, each one has its peculiarities. Like standard pool tables, each has its own particular quirk, and banking off the boards is akin to the variableness of a cushion shot. Like the local pool hustler, this favours the home club as half their schedule is in familiar environs.
Hockey fans are more exuberant and emotional than probably most other sport fans and the confines of the closed arena amplify their demonstrations. While this may have inspirational effect on the players, it appears also to contribute to an intimidational effect on the officials. As in basketball, they have significant control of the game, and whether they are aware of it or not, borderline calls continually seem to favour the home club. Also, home teams enjoy familiar food, drinks, beds and women which probably tends to stabilize their metabolisms.
While hot-shot teams appear to shoot their best shots with the local fans going delirious, they do appear to let up and take breathers with weaker clubs on the road. The varsity combos are rested, more often, and they apparently don't give a puck cause the spread isn't whipped with an expected frequency even though the game itself may be won. Penalties have greater importance in hockey than most other sports with the possible exception of disqualification of a horse in a race. An errant player is asked to spend time in the penalty box and his mates must play a man short. This penalty period gooses the play of the man-advantaged opposition into their power-play mode because their scoring potential is obviously heightened. Scrapping penalty-prone clubs will have the disadvantage when tangling with well-coached power-play clubs who have shown a good record in these situations.
The scarred and stitched goalie is probably the most important cog in a well-oiled hockey machine. Here one must look for consistency as well as a low "goals-against" average. A top goalie averages at most 2-1/2 goals per game in this category. Underdog bettors on close spreads also get the third-period blues when the trailing club's goalie leaves his net to assist his mates in a desperation tying score. The opposition often finds themselves with a "gift" score which makes grown men cry.