Hockey is one step closer to returning.
Today, NHL teams enter the training camp phase, in anticipation of official games resuming on August 1st.
Voluntary workouts have been happening since mid-June, but full NHL teams won't be together as a unit for the first time until Monday. All games were suspended back in March.
The biggest questions for both fans and serious sports bettors are – how will the long layoff, injuries, rust, and some player absences from this summer's action impact the games and outcomes? Note that a number of players have opted to skip the remainder of the season, citing health and safety concerns.
Indeed, today's opening of training camps is unprecedented. Expanded rosters on 24 eligible teams is truly a wild card. It will be tough to figure out prices and values, though we should know early on if the odds have predictive value. Teams won't have much time to train and gel together, since they will have only two-weeks in camp to prepare for playoff hockey.
All remaining NHL games will be played in Canada. Two Canadian cities were selected to be the "hub cities," which are slated to host all remaining 2019-2020 season games. Toronto will play host to Eastern teams and Edmonton, Alberta, will welcome their Western counterparts.
“It will be different for everybody.....It’s a camp in the middle of the summer after guys have had time off. It will be interesting to see how certain guys have prepared.” – Pittsburgh Penguins General Manager Jim Rutherford
That uncertainty is shared around the league by most everyone:
“Now that it’s real, we’ll find out exactly where everybody is. The team that can really get their team structure-wise and attitude and execution and out that in place as quick as possible, you have a chance to win. The discipline and structure are paramount to having success.” – New York Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz
One of the most interesting impacts of the unusual circumstances is how information that might be useful to sports gamblers is reported, or rather not reported.
All NHL players and staff will be tested at least every other day during camp, a policy similar to Major League Baseball. Then, testing will be daily once the games start.
For bettors, this will amount to wagering in the dark. The NHL will prohibiting teams from revealing any injury or illness information. They insist this is a way to project player privacy. The league has already reported 35 players testing positive since June 8, a number certain to increase with more travel and contact.
If hockey betting was unpredictable before, it's now a total crap shoot.
Headline Photo Credit: www.canoe.com