5 Ways Betting on the NHL is Similar and Very Different than Other North American Leagues

When comparing the National Hockey League with the other major North American leagues –Major League Basketball, the National Basketball Association, and the National Football League – there are many similarities and differences when it comes to betting. Knowing what applies to NHL games separately and what is a general rule when betting on North American sports is something you want to know before checking out the best NHL odds at www.vegasbetting.com.

Below you will find five ways betting on the NHL is like the other major North American leagues, and five ways betting on hockey is much different.

Similar – Even Split of Home and Away Games

Like the majority of leagues – not just in North American but globally – NHL teams play an even number of games at home and on the road. The split in games gives players in all leagues an even amount of time in their own cities during the season – meaning a chance to sleep at home and spend time with the family.

Different – Frequency of Overtime

Overtime in the NHL is much more frequent than it is in other sports. In an average year, the NHL sees around 23% of their games go into overtime. To put that in perspective, the NBA sees between 6% to 7% of their games end in overtime. The NFL (since 2000) sees about 5% of games go to overtime, with a record 25 games – or 9.8% – in 2002. Major League Baseball is a bit higher than the NBA and NFL – coming in at around 10% of games going into extra innings each year. Still, none come close to matching the NHL – making it the only league where it is viable to bet on games going into overtime consistently.

Similar – Playing at Home Matters

Playing at home matters in the NHL just like it does in other sports. While the NHL trails the NBA for the largest difference in home winning percentage versus away winning percentage – teams in the NHL still win around 55% of their home games each year – slightly above the MLB rate and a tad below the win rate in the NFL.

Different – The Empty Net Goal

The empty net goal is one way betting on the NHL is unique from other sports. A single empty net goal can change the outcome of over/under and puck line bets – making them the joy or ire of NHL bettors. Empty net goals are also the opposite of garbage time points in the NFL or NBA, as it is the team that is leading – not the trailing team – scoring with minutes or seconds left in the game.

Similar – Star Players Matter


While we touch on something a little contradictory to this later – in the NHL, like every other league, star players matter. The best teams of the last decade have featured multiple All-Stars, including the Pittsburgh Penguins (Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin) and Chicago Blackhawks (Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews), who have each won three Cups since 2009.

Different – Margin of Victory

Although it makes little sense to directly compare scoring and margin of victory of the four major sports – it is worth noting as it applies to betting. In an average NHL season, about 40% of games are decided by one goal – compared to the MLB, which sees between 26% and 29% of matches determined by one run every season since 2000. NFL games decided by eight points or less make up about 50% of games. If a one-score game in basketball is one to three points – then 14.5% of NBA games end in this range. Quite the range when comparing each league.

Similar – Injuries Play a Big Toll During the Season and Playoffs

Injuries occur in every sport and affect every team. While nothing quite compares to losing a starting quarterback in the NFL – NHL teams suffer just like everyone else. Checking the injury report before betting on an NHL game is just as important as it is in any other sport.

Different – Smaller Difference Between the Best and Worst Teams

The gap between the worst team in the NHL and the best team in the league is smaller than it is in the NBA and NFL. If we switch NHL points to points percentage (which is comparable to winning percentage) – we can show why much easier. In the NFL in 2024 – the best team finished with a winning per 87.5%, while the worst team’s winning percentage was 6.7% – a difference of more than 80%.  In the NBA in 2018-19, the top team won 73.2% of their games, the worst end the year winning only 20.7% – a difference of 52.5%. The NHL in 2018-19 – the Tampa Bay Lightning (in a record-setting season) had a points percentage of 78.1%, while the worst team’s points percentage was 39.0% – a difference of 39%. The year before, the difference between best and worst was 31.8%.

Similar – Contenders are Built Through Free Agency, Trades, and the Draft

All the major leagues in North American build their teams through a combination of free agency, trades, and the draft. This applies to when betting on futures – as every year, teams in all leagues try to improve by drafting well and signing marquee free agents – and will make trades if needed to improve during the season.

Different – The Playing Time of Players


In terms of the percentage of time in the game – the best hockey players, particularly forwards, play less than the stars in other sports. The top forwards on the top line of an NHL team play about 19 to 22 minutes per game – or roughly 35% of the time. The best NBA players average over 30 minutes per game – with some guys hovering around 37/38 minutes per night – that translates to about 67% to 76% of a game they are on the court. A starting quarterback will take every meaningful snap during the season (barring injury). The playing time in hockey is why good teams need plenty of depth if they are to compete for a Stanley Cup.