Why Is Hockey & Hockey Betting So Much More Popular in Canada?

I recently got back from a trip to Montreal. While I was aware that hockey was a big deal in Canada, I wasn’t aware of just how popular hockey betting was until I visited. Canada is hockey-crazy, and I admit, the enthusiasm for it is infectious. I left wanting to learn more about it.

I decided to conduct a deep dive into hockey and find out why it is so popular. From Canadians watching it in bars to the huge numbers of people I saw betting on hockey from their phones, I had to know more. Here’s what I found out about why hockey betting is so popular in Canada.

To fully understand the current popularity of hockey in Canada, it’ll help to know a little bit about its history.

A Quick History of Hockey in Canada

  • Hockey was first played in Canada in 1862.
  • In 1875, the first indoor hockey game was played.
  • The first female hockey game quickly followed in 1892.
  • In 1893, the Stanley Cup was created. Back then it was called the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup.
  • In the early 1900s, international professional hockey leagues emerged, and Canada lost many top players to US-based leagues.
  • The Ontario Professional Hockey League formed in 1908. This was the beginning of pro hockey in Canada.
  • The National Hockey Associated formed in 1910, followed by the National Hockey League in 1917.
  • In 1920, Canada won the Olympic Gold Medal for hockey in Antwerp. This was a matter of huge national pride and cemented hockey’s place in Canadian culture.


Canada dominated amateur men’s hockey for 30 years, between 1920 and 1950. Then, its first major rival, the Soviet Union, began to challenge its dominance with state-sponsored teams.

The rivalry between the two lead to the infamous Summit Series in 1972 – an eight-match clash between Canadian and Soviet players. Four games were played in Canada, and four were played in Moscow. Canada edged the win in the final game in Moscow. Paul Henderson scored the final goal with seconds left on the clock and snatched the victory for Canada.

This series ultimately lead to the professional game Canadians know and love today. Canada has since won another Olympic gold medal (2002) and has been a constant dominant presence in international hockey.

Today, ice hockey trails only second to golf in terms of participation in Canada. Stats released by Statista show that there are 637,000 registered ice hockey players in Canada.

As you can see, hockey goes to the very heart and soul of Canada. It’s interwoven in the country’s sporting history. Canadians have had several national moments of glory linked to hockey, and the sport would not be where it is today without Canada driving it forward. That is probably the main reason for the popularity of hockey betting.

Other Reasons for Hockey’s Popularity in Canada

Several sporting legends such as Wayne Gretzky have emerged from the sport. As a pro player, he inspired legions of Canadians to either play or follow hockey. You don’t get the nickname “The Great One” for no reason. His 894 goals helped earn him that name.

Tens of millions are poured into developing the sport and attracting talent. A quick look at the NHL salary cap will show that it increases almost every year. The salary cap dictates what teams may pay for players and is determined by the previous year’s revenue, among other things. In 2018, it was estimated that the average NHL team was worth $630 million. The US television deal with NBC alone is worth $187 million per year. There’s plenty of money for the promotion and development of the sport.

Like all sports, the highest-paid athletes inspire young people to get into the game. Players like Connor McDavid, who has earned more than $19 million, do wonders for the promotion of the sport among the Canadian youth. It gives them dreams and ambitions to play and participate in the sport.

Some Canadians I talked to told me that hockey is a central part of their communities. Hockey brings together players from lots of different religious and ethnic backgrounds and strengthens the bonds of the community. It’s a force for social good in the country.

Of course, there’s the uniqueness of the game itself. Some players I talked to described it as “flying on the ice.” Others said they had dabbled in other sports like lacrosse and golf, but they didn’t compare to the adrenaline rush of playing hockey. I’ve never played myself, but I believe them after watching a few games.

These reasons all combine to foster the popularity and growth of hockey in Canada. However, the main reason is still the first one – the sport is a matter of national pride and is deeply embedded in Canadian culture and sporting history. This is an original Canadian sport, and without Canada, there probably wouldn’t even be such a thing as pro hockey or hockey betting today.

Betting on Hockey In Canada

Another thing I noticed when visiting Montreal was how many players are betting on hockey in Canada. In the sports bar which I watched a game in, some punters were exchanging bet tips, talking about wins and losses, and placing live bets on their mobile phones.

I enjoy a bet as much as the next person, so I was curious to know what sort of wagers can be made for hockey betting online. Here’s what I found.

While Canadian bettors tend to stick to betting on the NHL and some international tournaments, some hockey betting sites offer action on Russian, Swedish, Czech, and other leagues. Hockey is also taking root in the UK and other countries abroad. There are plenty of games to bet on.

There are lots of options for live betting on hockey in Canada. Moneyline, puck line, regulation time, over/under, team to score next, bets on each period, team totals, total goals in the game, correct score, winning margins, and lots of other prop bets can be made. This offers Canadian hockey bettors lots of variety.

Canadian sportsbooks offer plenty of free bets on hockey. This is one of the main drivers behind the popularity of betting on hockey. With a 100% deposit match or a guaranteed money-back bet, there’s a lot more incentive to have a punt. A lot of players sign up at one Canadian betting site, claim the welcome bonus, and move on to the next. Others stick around and take advantage of weekly reload bonuses before each game.

Hockey betting is wildly unpredictable. This allows for exciting underdog bets and unlikely outcomes. Punters can make great returns on an unlikely bet if a key player is injured during gameplay, for example. Given the fast-paced, high-octane nature of the game, anything can happen. I talked to some players on hockey forums who always bet a small amount, like 5 CAD, on the underdog. They said that while most bets don’t turn out well, the value of the ones that do is greater than the total of the regular small losses.

Lastly, there’s a sense of patriotism to betting on Canadian hockey teams. This is especially true when they’re facing off against international rivals. I’ve even noticed some hockey betting sites playing on this and enticing Canadians to “bet on your national team.” Canadians are rightfully patriotic, and hockey betting gets mixed in with that.

Hockey Is Canada’s Game

I think what I discovered about the popularity of hockey in Canada can be summed up by the heading above. Hockey is Canada’s own game, and it has been a part of life in Canada for as long as anyone can remember.

Hockey was a relatively new sport for me before my visit to Montreal. Now that I know more about it, and have come to understand it, I’ve converted. I’ll be keeping a closer eye on hockey and placing some hockey bets in the future.

It’s addictive, and when you mix that in with your country’s history, national glory, and being pioneers of the sport, it’s easy to see why Canadians love watching, playing, and betting on hockey so much.

James Peralta: As a recent addition to the GamblingSites.org team, James Peralta has been covering everything about casinos, sports, and laws that are specific to online gambling in Canada. James started writing about sports in 2007 during his first year at U of T Mississauga.