Roller hockey (or rink hockey) is hockey without the freezing-cold climate and ice. Instead, two five-person teams slide around on their skates with wheels and are not susceptible to excessive contact from other players.
Currently, roller hockey is most popular in Latin countries. Despite several international competitions that feature teams from Africa, America, Asia, and Europe, rink hockey has faced many challenges on its path to becoming a widely popular sport. In recent years, organisations have taken a fan-friendly approach and began designing rinks using a variety of different colours that enhance the visibility of the ball. This is great for fans of the sport and even better for those fans out there who enjoy gambling on rink hockey. With the ever-growing popularity, more and more bookmakers are opening up markets for international and domestic competition.
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Rink hockey enjoys its highest levels of popularity in Latin countries, particularly Argentina, Italy, Portugal and Spain, while it has support in the Portuguese-speaking African nations of Angola and Mozambique. Between them, Argentina, Italy, Portugal and Spain have won 113 of the 120 medals handed out at rink hockey’s 40 world championships.
What are the major rink hockey events?
The Federation International de Roller Sports organises the Rink Hockey World Championship every two years. First held in Stuttgart in 1936, the Rink Hockey World Championship moved to odd-numbered years in 1991, with the next event scheduled for the Angolan city of Luanda in 2013. The Spanish team will arrive in Angola bidding to win the Rink Hockey World Championship for the fifth time in a row. Both Spain and Portugal have won a total of 15 Rink Hockey World Championship titles but the larger of the two Iberian countries has been the dominant force in recent times.
Rink hockey fans hope that their favourite sport will make its way on to the full Olympic Games program in the coming years. Rink hockey was one of the three demonstration sports at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games. Twelve nations took part – Angola, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and the United States of America – with Argentina winning gold, Spain winning silver and Italy winning bronze. Portugal entered the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games as the raging favourite having won the previous year’s world title but it lost two matches in the six-game semi-final phase and then fell to a 2-3 loss to Italy in the bronze medal match.
Even though rink hockey can claim to be popular in more than 60 countries, it faces an uphill struggle to become a full Olympic Games sport. The reality is that the International Olympic Committee included rink hockey as a demonstration sport at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games simply because of its widespread popularity in the Catalonia region, of which Barcelona is the capital. With the International Olympic Committee not employing demonstration sports since 1992, rink hockey’s path into the Olympic Games is arduous.
So while rink hockey continues to fight for a regular place on the Olympic Games program, its major international competitions are its world and European championships.
Domestically, rink hockey league exist all around the world, albeit with the greatest concentration of tournaments in Europe and South America. Bookmakers, particularly those whose target markets include countries in Mediterranean Europe, offer match betting on selected club competitions.
On which rink hockey tournaments can one bet?
Punters can strike bets on the world’s three strongest rink hockey leagues, which are the top divisions in Italy, Portugal and Spain, as well as the world and European championship when they roll along, although many of the international games feature prohibitive favourites.
There are 14 sides in Italy’s Lega Nazionale Hockey Serie A1. Hockey Novara has been the champion team a record 32 times – 13 more than its nearest rival – but the northern side has not been the one to beat since the early 2000s.
Spain’s OK Liga features 16 teams, with Barcelona having won more than 50 per cent of the championships. Rink hockey is a Catalonia-centric sport, although the region of Galicia in Spain’s north west is home to a number of strong sides.
The teams of Benfica and Porto are the traditional powers in Portugal’s 1a Divisao. Benfica has won the top division in Portugese rink hockey 21 times, which puts the Lisbon-based side one victory ahead of its fierce multi-sport rival.
There is no argument as to which of rink hockey’s domestic competitions is the finest. Spanish teams have taken out 42 of the 47 European League titles, with Portuguese sides stuck on four wins and Italian teams on one. Consequently, bookmaker focus most of their rink hockey betting energies on Spain’s OK Liga. It generates the widest range of odds.
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