Betting NHL Games Played Outdoors

Use these tips when betting NHL games played outdoors.

Key Points

– There are some differences when betting NHL games played outdoors.

– To begin handicapping an outdoor NHL game, treat it like any other game first. 

Betting NHL Games Played Outdoors

On the minds of most sports bettors when the calendar turns to January 1 are bowl games and the College Football Playoff national championship. Several years ago, the NHL decided to take a risk and play something called the Winter Classic.

The Winter Classic has been held every year since 2008 except for 2013 (lockout) and 2021 (COVID-19 pandemic). Traditionally, the game has been held on New Year’s Day though in years when it falls on a Sunday, the game is played on January 2. 

The annual game has been a huge success for the league. Games have been played at Wrigley Field in Chicago and Fenway Park in Boston. The games always receive a lot of national attention and TV ratings are typically much better than the league is used to.

In most cases, bettors would handicap the Winter Classic like any other regular season game. There are some things that do make the game different. Those items should be taken into account by smart bettors. 

There are six factors that bettors must consider when betting NHL games played outdoors.


Public Attention

The NHL isn’t the NFL or NBA, the two most popular sports to bet in the U.S. As a result, it doesn’t get the same amount of attention in the media. Just watch an episode of Sportscenter on ESPN. 

With the Winter Classic, bettors should get ready for some serious media attention. It’s a huge game and typically more popular teams are chosen to increase the amount of hype on the outdoor game. 

The public pays much more attention to this game than it does to any other typical game in January. The public will place more wagers on a game the more attention it receives. 

The betting public doesn’t always make unbiased judgments. The more the public wagers on a game, the more you need to know how they are affecting line position and movement. One team may open as a -105 moneyline favorite. A day later, the team is a -185 favorite. How did that happen? Smart bettors know how it happened and will bet accordingly, if at all.

Finding value in NHL betting odds may be challenging if you have a shared affinity for a hockey team. However, if you favor the team that the general public dislikes, you may have a strong betting opportunity as an NHL handicapper. This opportunity wouldn’t be as obvious if you weren’t observing how the general public bets.

Watch the Media When Betting NHL Games Played Outdoors

There are a couple TV shows that are broadcast leading up to the Winter Classic. Bettors can get an inside look at both teams. It’s compelling television and gives bettors more information about which team can be successful in the Winter Classic.

Watching the media isn’t necessarily going to give you direct betting advice. You will get information that will help you in making your decisions on betting NHL games. Plus, the media will greatly influence the public’s perceptions as they place bets on NHL games. 

Bettors that can get a feel for what the impact of the media might be will have a significant advantage when betting NHL games whether they are played indoors or outdoors. 

The Weather

Obviously, weather is going to play a role in an outdoor NHL game. Winter Classic games are played in January in the northern U.S. States and in Canada. Needless to say, it is usually brutally cold.

Over the course of the Winter Classic, there have been games that have been too hot, too cold, rainy, and snowy. The temperature can affect the ice and the speed of the game. The sun is also a factor in games played during the afternoon. Even in a cold-weather climate, the sun can affect the ice as well as players.

Playing outdoors is the one time when weather affects betting NHL games. 

The Crowd Effect

Outdoor NHL games are typically played in baseball and football stadiums. Those structures were obviously not intended for hockey. 

In many cases, the spectators will be far from the ice because the rink is much smaller than the field. The public will believe that crowds at outdoor NHL games will have a much larger impact than usual because of sheer numbers. This is one of things you learn early on about how to bet on hockey.

The average NHL arena holds around 18,000 fans. Winter Classic games can get 50,000 or more in attendance. However, depending on how things are set up, the crowd may be too far away from the ice to make much of a difference. 

Betting NHL Games & Adversity

Bettors should always take into account how teams handle adversity. The Winter Classic is the NHL’s biggest regular season game of the year. In addition to feeling more pressure and scrutiny than usual, players will be extremely fired up for the game. 

It’s a big deal playing in the Winter Classic. Teams that have demonstrated a history of success under pressure, especially in changing conditions, are ones to keep an eye on. 

The opposite is true also. Teams that have a habit of failing under pressure or backing down from a challenging situation are teams worth fading.

Handicap As If Not Outside

In the end, try and handicap the outdoor game as you would any other. When betting NHL games, you must take into account all the elements that make the outdoor game special. However, ultimately, it is still just a hockey game. 

It’s very easy to overlook the fundamentals by getting caught up in the excitement and hype that surrounds the Winter Classic. Think of it as any other game. Then, once you’ve completed your research and analysis, start to include the outdoor game variables.