As a resident of Michigan I was raised to love ice hockey. As a nearby resident of Detroit, that meant rooting for the Detroit Red Wings. Tonight I had the privilege of making my first sports betting wager on my hometown team, and I wanted to share the experience with you.
For those of you who are uninitiated, hockey is a game played on ice where players skate around at speeds up to 25 miles per hour shooting a black disc called a puck. The puck is shot around 90-100 miles per hour at a goal that is placed on the ice. The team who scores more goals at the end of the game wins. The game is very physical and jokes are often made about the fights and missing teeth that hockey players have.
The league the Red Wings play in is the National Hockey League (NHL) and a season consists of 82 regular season games and a championship playoff bracketed series. To win the championship a team must win 16 playoff games in 4 series. A series is won by the first team to win 4 games. The team that wins the championship is awarded the Stanley Cup, a trophy that has been awarded for more than 100 years and is perhaps the most famous trophy in the world of sports.
Entering todays game, the Detroit Red Wings found themselves in a 0-3 series hole against the San Jose Sharks. What this meant is that San Jose only had to win one more game against the Wings and they would move on to the next round of the playoffs. For the Detroit Red Wings it was simple; win or go home.
Looking at the odds on Legends.com, I noticed the Red Wings were actually favored to win tonight's game. Noticing the point spread the Wings were giving +1.5 goals with a payout of +225 on the spread. Every game in this series had been close, with the winning team only edging the other by one goal, a stat which rarely happens consistently during a series of games (a lot of teams win by 2,3,4 or more goals).
I decide to take the Red Wings with the spread, hoping they would beat San Jose by 2 goals or more. At this point I am feeling nervous, but anticipating the game tonight.
6 minutes and 22 seconds into the game I get a great sign of things to come. Red Wings forward spins into the San Jose zone and curls with the puck, flinging a backhanded shot at the goal. It goes in! GOAL DETROIT RED WINGS! They are now up 1-0 and if they keep it up I will be on my way to an easy payday.
Just under 12 minutes of game time later things are looking even brighter for me. Detroit team captain Nicklas Lidstrom, a Swedish hockey legend has put two pucks into the back of the San Jose net giving the Wings a big 3-0 lead. Things have never looked brighter and I am starting to find ways to spend my surely won money.
Not so fast.
15 seconds after Lidstrom's goal makes it 3-0 San Jose forward Logan Couture gets a lucky (and I mean LUCKY) bounce off of Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard making it 3-1. A twinge of nervousness hits me, and while still confident I decide to not count my money just yet.
The second period starts off slower than the first, with no real action going on goal scoring wise. Hits are flowing and the game is going along slowly. I can sense San Jose creeping back into this game and the crowd is not nearly as into things as they were earlier. Just after the midway point of the period a San Jose player gets a great shot off and puts the puck into the Detroit net making the score 3-2 Red Wings.
I start getting really nervous, and a few swear words start coming to the edge of my lips. Detroit holds on and we head to the third period with the Wings still up 3-2.
It wouldn't stay that way.
1 minute 14 seconds into the third and final period, San Jose Shark sniper Dany Heatley snaps a shot into the Detroit goal. My sure thing Detroit 3-0 has evaporated to a 3-3 tie and I am in agony.
The third period plays out with momentum shifting both ways repeatedly. For every good Detroit chance it seems that San Jose gets two, and as time creeps down it seems more and more likely that my 2 goal margin I need is not going to happen.
I am now giving players advice on how to play, and swearing and sweating and rubbing my hands together. It is awesome.
With 1 minute 27 seconds left to go and their playoff lives on the line, Detroit forward Darren Helm gets a rebounded shot right on his stick and fires a shot into the back of the net! Detroit is going to win this game, and even better, there is a chance that I can still win my bet!
With almost 90 seconds left on the clock San Jose is sure to pull their goalie to get an extra skater on the ice. The strategy is that the skater will generate more offensive pressure and increase the chance of scoring a goal. For me it means that a Detroit player has a wide open net to help me make the point spread.
I jump up and down with excitement. I am hooting and hollering. It is so much fun! But alas, it is not meant to be. The great ending does not result in a 2 goal margin, but does result in a Detroit Red Wings win. End score is 4-3. The series is currently sitting a 3-1 in favor of San Jose. Detroit resumes playing for their playoff lives on Sunday and I think I am going to be wagering on that game as well.
For me sports betting was great. I really enjoyed watching my bet come to fruition and seeing how it played out. I think this is perhaps my newest favorite form of gambling, with blackjack coming in second. I really have a lot to learn about betting on sports, but look forward to learning the nuances of it.
So to recap: Sports betting is great, hockey is great and I am exhausted from this violent swing of emotions I experienced today. Lets do it again on Sunday!