Hockey Betting: From the NHL to the KHL
When most people think of hockey betting, their minds immediately go to the National Hockey League (NHL). After all, the NHL has many of the world's most talented professional players and it draws a considerable amount of TV coverage. Plus NHL betting is quite popular throughout the world since millions of people wager on this league's games.
But this isn't to say that the NHL is your only option when it comes to hockey betting. In fact, there are dozens of professional hockey leagues. So if you're looking for a little variety from your wagering experience, here are five leagues that you can find betting lines for at many online sportsbooks.
Founded in 1917, the NHL has been the premier hockey league on the planet for nearly a century. This organization is not only popular in North America, but also in many of the northern European countries like Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Russia (Eurasian) and the Czech Republic. For this reason, many NHL team rosters have an international flare with players hailing from all over the globe. The league's 30 teams are fairly evenly distributed throughout the United States and Canada.
If you're looking to bet on the NHL, keep in mind that the season runs from October to June. Each team plays 82 regular season games from October to April, and the Stanley Cup playoffs take place throughout the league's final two months. This is when you can find a lot of different lines and prop bets available.
Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) Betting
The KHL is fairly new, having been formed in 2008. But despite its relative youth, the KHL has quickly risen to become Europe's top hockey league. Many KHL players are from Russia, but there are also a fair amount from all over Europe too. This makes sense because there are teams in Russia, Belarus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Latvia, Kazakhstan and the Ukraine.
Overall, there are 28 teams in the KHL, and they each play a 54-game regular season schedule. Much like the NHL, the top eight teams in each conference advance to the Gagarin Cup playoffs. There's also a Nadezhda Cup (means Cup of Hope) consolation tournament for 12 non-playoff teams. The KHL regular season runs from September to February while the playoffs stretch from February to April.
Elitserien (Swedish Elite League "SEL") Betting
Another strong European hockey organization is Elitserien (a.k.a. SEL). Despite being based entirely in the small country of Sweden, this league has continually attracted top talent and draws attendance figures of around 5,700 fans per game.
The SEL is comprised of 12 teams and they all play 55 regular season contests. From here the top six teams automatically move on to the playoffs, while clubs ranked 7-10 compete in mini-playoffs to determine the final two playoff spots. The top two seeded teams then face the two winners of the mini-playoff series. Including both the regular season and playoffs, the SEL runs from September to April.
SM-liiga (Finnish Elite League) Betting
This is the top hockey league in Finland, and it's very competitive with the KHL and SEL in terms of popularity. SM-liiga was founded in 1975 as a replacement for the SM-sarja amateur organization. Since its inception, the Finnish Elite League has increased hockey popularity by leaps and bounds in Finland.
There are 14 teams in SM-liiga and each one plays a 60-game regular season schedule. Just like the SEL, the top six teams automatically move on to the playoffs. The clubs ranked 7-10 then compete in a four-team playoffs to determine which team goes on to face the top two seeded clubs. SM-liiga's regular season lasts from September to March while the playoffs span from March to April.
Czech Extraliga (Tipsport Extraliga) Betting
This league was founded after Czechoslovakia broke up in 1993. Over two decades later, Czech Extraliga has become a top-notch European hockey league, supplying a steady stream of talent to the NHL. There are 14 teams in Czech Extraliga and 6 of them automatically qualify for the postseason. Much like with what we've discussed before, the teams ranked 7-10 compete in mini-playoffs to determine the final two seeds.
There's certainly no shortage of options when it comes to betting on international hockey. So if you ever get bored with the NHL, go online and check out what other lines are being offered by sportsbooks.