In the world of ice hockey, The National Hockey League (NHL) reigns supreme. As the premier ice hockey league in the world, the North American based league is home to the world’s best players. It’s the league that young ice hockey players worldwide dream of being a part of. The NBA is to basketball as the NHL is to ice hockey.
Originally starting with just four teams in 1917 Canada, the league quickly began expansion only a few short years later. In 1924, the NHL expanded to the US with the addition of the Boston Bruins to the league’s roster.
Growth continued through the 1990s as fans saw the league develop into an impressive 30 powerful squads. Further growth stopped until just recently with the addition of the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017.
While there are other leagues with some popularity around the world, nothing compares to the NHL. When it comes to sports betting, you may find action on the smaller leagues but again, nothing like the level offered on NHL games and the season.
While the NHL started out with a humble four teams in 1909, it has slowly expanded to its present-day state of 31 teams. 24 of these teams are locating in the US, and 7 of them are in Canada. An NHL team usually has 23 players officially on the roster and 20 active for each game (dressed).
The teams are split into two conferences – the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference. Within each conference, there are two Divisions set by geographical area.
In the Eastern Conference, you have the Atlantic Divisions and the Metropolitan Division, and in the Western Conference, you have the Central Division and the Pacific Division.
The Atlantic and Metropolitan Divisions each have eight teams. The Central Division has seven teams, and the Pacific Division has eight teams. The full breakdown of where each team resides is listed below.
Detroit Red Wings
Tampa Bay Lightning
Toronto Maple Leafs
Columbus Blue Jackets
New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
St. Louis Blues
Los Angeles Kings
San Jose Sharks
Vegas Golden Knights
The regular season of the NHL for each team is 82 games. For each team, this is split up into 41 home games and 41 games on the road.
Teams in the Eastern Conference play a total of 28 games within their division. This is four games against each of the other seven teams. They also play 24 games against the teams within the other division of the Eastern Conference.
This is three games against each of the eight teams. They then play every team in the other conference twice, once at home and once on the road.
Teams in the Western Conference play a total of 26 or 29 games within their respective division. This breaks down to four or five games against each of the other six or seven teams respectively.
They then play either 21 or 24 games against the teams in the other division within the Western Conference. They then also play every team in the other conference twice, once at home and once on the road.
During the regular season, teams are vying to make it into the NHL playoffs.
Slots are awarded based on points earned for how the teams perform each regular season game. Teams receive two points for every win, one point for every loss in overtime or shootout, and zero points for a loss in regulation.
This is an interesting system as they reward teams for tying in regular time as opposed to only awarding them points for an outright win.
Based on the points listed above, the teams will be ranked within their division. The teams with the most points will be at the top, and the teams with the least points will be at the bottom.
At the end of the regular season, the top three teams in each division will make the playoffs plus the next two teams with the highest points within each conference.
Both of those additional teams can come from the same division.
This works out to a total of 16 teams making the playoffs with 8 coming from each conference. The teams then compete in a bracket-style tournament with each round consisting of a best of seven series.
The first team to win four games will move on to the next round of the playoffs, and the losing team is eliminated.
In each round, the team that was the higher seed coming into the playoffs will have home-ice advantage. Home ice means that four of the seven games will be played at their home arena.
Once one team reaches four wins, though, the series is over.
All seven games are not always played.
The Stanley Cup
Each conference will have its eight teams play down to a winner who will be dubbed the Western or Eastern Conference Champion. These two teams will then meet in the Stanley Cup Championship.
This is a best of seven series to determine who will be crowned the season Champions and take home The Stanley Cup (the trophy awarded to the champs).
The Stanley Cup may be the biggest piece of history associated with the NHL. The cup itself is just a big trophy, but it’s the oldest existing trophy to be awarded to any professional sports team.
The Stanley Cup, though, is also used to refer to the Championship series that determines the yearly Champion in the NHL.
The Wrap-up – Why The NHL Is Important to Bettors
As the NHL is the premier ice hockey league in the entire world, it’s not surprising that it’s also the league that offers the most betting action.
While sportsbooks occasionally offer action on smaller ice hockey leagues, you’re always going to find more betting options and bet types with the NHL.
If you’re someone who is looking to take ice hockey betting seriously, then you’ll want to dedicate your time to a league that has the most room for growth.
Taking the time to do extensive research on a lesser league may be profitable, but you may find yourself limited in the number of games and types of bets offered. With the NHL, this will never be a problem as the league continues to show signs of growth.