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The Olympic ice hockey tournament has proven to be a bit of an unpredictable tournament since NHL players began participating in 1998. Three different teams have won the last four tournaments, with Canada the only nation to win more than one medal. Finland, of all teams, is the only country to win a medal on three separate occasions. Canada, USA, Russia and the Czech Republic have two medals and Sweden has only earned a medal on one occasion.
While the hockey world has traditionally been dominated by 6 countries (the only countries to earn medals since the NHL began participating in the Olympics), there have been upsets and near medals earned by some of the world’s underdog teams. Who could forget Belarus upsetting medal favourite Sweden and earning a berth into the semi-finals in 2002? Slovakia made it all the way to the semi-finals with the late Pavol Demitra leading the way in 2010. Switzerland took a point off of Canada, by keeping the game tied until the shootout.
Who will be the surprise in 2014? Here are the odds to win gold at Sochi 2014 (odds courtesy of 888 Poker):
Canada +200 (means you bet $100 to win $300 gross, a $200 net profit)
Czech Rep +1,150
Austria + 100,000
A bet on Finland appears like great value to me. The tournament is in Europe on big ice, and they have excellent goaltending with Tuukka Rask likely to be their starting goaltender. As mentioned previously, they have a history of doing well on the world’s biggest stage, winning a medal in three of the last four Olympics. Finland would also be a great bet to win their group, needing only a win (a tough game against Canada) to ensure winning their group, which includes Norway and Austria.
Team Switzerland is an even bigger underdog, but they are absolutely trending in the right direction. Despite the fact that they are not fully stocked with NHL talent or individual superstars, they have done remarkably well in international tournaments. Switzerland could earn a medal in this tournament if they can finish first or second in their group. It’s still unlikely, but there is value to be had here.
If betting on individual games is more your style, the Swiss and the Slovaks are capable of beating any team in the world (with a bit of luck). If you’re looking for bust or boom, check out the host nation Russia’s first game against Slovenia (the odds are -10,000!).