Lack Of Lineup Transparency Leaves NBA, NHL Bettors In The Dark

Written By Mike Mazzeo on October 25, 2021

During his morning media availability prior to an Oct. 18 road win, Rangers coach Gerard Gallant declined to disclose his starting goaltender for that evening’s game against the Maple Leafs.

Essentially, he told reporters they’d find out when the puck dropped just after 7 p.m.

Gallant is far from alone in acting like lineups are classified information. Nets coach Steve Nash also declined to reveal his starting five when asked prior to Brooklyn’s opener last week’s against the Bucks.

It’s been this way for a long time. But now that sports leagues are fully embracing sportsbooks and daily fantasy sports operators — and readily taking their advertising dollars — there should be more transparency surrounding lineups and injury information.

Leagues, operators in a long-term relationship

The traditionalists and non-bettors might argue that teams should be allowed to keep their secrets. Even a long-time sports bettor told PlayNY that catering to gamblers would be a “black eye” for sports.

But the second leagues started taking money from gambling operators, the game changed.

The NHL just partnered nationally with DraftKings, which declined to comment for this story. Meanwhile, Front Office Sports reports that betting giants like DraftKings, FanDuel, and Caesars are prepared to bid big for live NBA broadcasting rights.

The players are getting involved too.

Larry Brooks of the New York Post just reported this weekend that the NHL and its Players’ Association reached an agreement to allow players to participate in advertising related to sports wagering, though they can’t be shown “engaging in betting activities”.

Lineup process still needs work

The NHL and NBA, however, both told PlayNY they’re sticking with the status quo for their 2021-22 seasons.

“We have chosen not to change any of our Club disclosure requirements with regard to our sports betting relationships,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said. “And, at least at this point, no consideration has been given to changing those policies.”

Likewise, an NBA source told PlayNY there have been no changes to lineup reveals as they pertain to NBA betting. The league releases its starting lineups just 30 minutes prior to tipoff, while the NHL does official lineup reveals after warmups (which leaves about 10-20 minutes or less before faceoff).

In both cases, bettors and daily fantasy sports players are given precious little time to make their final decisions.

Everyone wins when bettors are better informed

These leagues would serve sports bettors and daily fantasy players better by releasing their lineups at least 90 minutes before game-time — the same as the NFL — allowing those speculating on the games to make more informed decisions.

A former NHL employee told PlayNY that 90 minutes would be impossible, as hockey teams often rely on warmups to determine a player’s availability for the game. Possible solutions could include holding warm-ups earlier or fixing the timeframe at 30 minutes (like the NBA).

Variables like line combinations and rotations can change on a dime, of course. But vague injury designations — such as the NHL’s infamous “upper-body” and “lower-body” notation — and secretive return timetables only create confusion and frustration.

It’s significant, for example, if the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champion Lightning are starting all-world netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy or his backup, Brian Elliott. There aren’t a million choices; there are two. And the talent gap between them could be massive.

Sharp sports bettors and DFS players shouldn’t be scrambling to place their wagers just because they want to have the most information possible. Leagues may not have to go to 90 minutes to be more transparent, but the NBA and NHL can do better than this.

Lead photo: Mary Altaffer | AP

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Mike Mazzeo

Mike Mazzeo has covered New York sports since 2010, previously working as a beat writer and columnist for ESPN (Nets), Yahoo Sports (NBA/MLB) and the New York Daily News (Yankees). His work has also been published in the New York Times, New York Post, Forbes and The Ringer.

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