NHL Season Welcomes New Team
Canada and the USA have been gearing up for the 2017-17 NHL season with pre-season games since early September. On Wednesday night, the regular season starts, to run until 17 April 2018, after which the top sides will start playoffs for the Stanley Cup. So Australian ice-hockey fans have plenty of action to look forward to, along with tempting betting options several times a week.
As always, the NHL season will be played in two conferences, Eastern and Western, each divided into two divisions. A Las Vegas group headed by Bill Foley has been granted an expansion franchise, so the Vegas Golden Knights will join the other teams in the Western Conference’s Pacific Division.
Olympics Controversy Causing Mutterings
Fan can expect some unhappiness from international players in the NHL this season, as it coincides with a Winter Olympics year. Normally, NHL players are granted leave of absence on their contracts to participate in the Olympics for their national teams, but this year the NHL has decided not to take a break in the schedule while the Winter Olympics take place in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and they have barred any players contracted to NHL teams from playing Olympic ice-hockey in their national teams.
Legally, that would be very tricky for the NHL to enforce, so instead, the body has convinced the International Ice Hockey Federation to create a blacklist that doesn’t allow national teams to offer an Olympic place to players under NHL contracts. The hockey players’ union has not indicated whether it will be fighting this ban, but either way, don’t expect too many sunny smiles on the ice while the Olympics are on.
Teams to Back, According to the Bookies
In the Eastern Conference, the Tampa Bay Lightning leads the Atlantic Division betting, at odds of around $2.75. Defending champions the Pittsburgh Penguins are at $2.25 to win the Metropolitan Division, and early favourites at $9.00 to retain the Stanley Cup.
The Chicago Blackhawks, at $3.35, are fancied marginally more than the $3.50 Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators to win the Western Conference’s Central Division. In the Pacific Division, the Edmonton Oilers are also $2.25 favourites.
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