How long do hockey games last?

HotbotBy HotBotUpdated: July 3, 2024

Standard Regulation Time

A standard hockey game comprises three periods, each lasting 20 minutes, resulting in a total of 60 minutes of play. This applies to most professional leagues, including the National Hockey League (NHL). However, the actual duration of a hockey game extends beyond just the playing time due to several factors.


Between each period, there is a break known as an intermission. In the NHL, each intermission lasts 15 to 20 minutes, allowing players to rest and strategize. Including these two intermissions, we add approximately 30 to 40 minutes to the game duration.

Stoppages in Play

Hockey is a dynamic sport with numerous stoppages in play, including:

  • Offsides
  • Icing
  • Penalties
  • Injuries
  • TV Timeouts

Each stoppage can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes, cumulatively adding significant time to the overall game duration.

Overtime and Shootouts

If a game is tied at the end of regulation, overtime is played to determine the winner. The format for overtime varies depending on the league:

NHL Regular Season

The NHL employs a 5-minute sudden-death overtime period during the regular season. If neither team scores, the game advances to a shootout, which can last an additional 5 to 10 minutes.

NHL Playoffs

During the playoffs, the NHL uses a 20-minute sudden-death overtime period. If the game remains tied, additional overtime periods are played until a goal is scored. These extended overtimes can significantly prolong the game, sometimes lasting several hours.

International and Amateur Games

Other leagues and levels of play, such as international competitions and amateur leagues, have their own rules regarding game length and overtime. For example:

International Competitions

In tournaments like the Olympics and the IIHF World Championships, overtime periods and shootouts are also employed, though the exact rules might vary. Typically, a 10-minute sudden-death overtime is played, followed by a shootout if necessary.

Junior and Amateur Leagues

Junior and amateur leagues often follow similar rules to the NHL but may have shorter intermissions and different overtime regulations, affecting the overall game length.

Special Events and Circumstances

Some special events, such as outdoor games or international friendlies, might feature longer intermissions for entertainment purposes, further extending the game duration.

Outdoor Games

Events like the NHL Winter Classic or Stadium Series may include extended intermissions for performances or ceremonies, adding 10 to 20 minutes to the overall timeline.

International Friendlies

In friendly matches, the rules can be more flexible, sometimes including longer intermissions for promotional activities.

Television Broadcasts

When hockey games are televised, additional time is often allocated for advertisements and analysis. This can add another 30 to 45 minutes to the viewing experience.

Pre-Game and Post-Game Coverage

Television broadcasts usually include pre-game shows and post-game analysis, each lasting approximately 15 to 30 minutes. While not part of the game itself, these segments contribute to the overall consumption time.

Time Management for Attendees

For fans attending games, it's essential to consider additional factors like:

  • Arrival time
  • Security checks
  • Concession lines
  • Parking and exiting the venue

These aspects can add another 1 to 2 hours to the total time commitment for attending a live hockey game.

Historical Anomalies

Some games have become legendary due to their extraordinary lengths. For example, the longest game in NHL history took place in 1936 between the Detroit Red Wings and the Montreal Maroons, lasting a staggering 176 minutes and 30 seconds of playing time due to six overtime periods.


A typical hockey game, including regulation time, intermissions, and stoppages, generally lasts around 2.5 to 3 hours. However, various factors such as overtime, televised broadcasts, and special events can extend this duration. Understanding these elements helps fans better plan their time, whether they are watching from home or attending in person.

Related Questions

How long does a hockey game last?

In professional ice hockey, such as the National Hockey League (NHL), a standard game consists of three periods. Each period is 20 minutes long, for a total of 60 minutes of play. The clock stops frequently, however, leading to a longer overall experience.

Ask Hotbot: How long does a hockey game last?

How long is a hockey game?

In professional hockey leagues such as the National Hockey League (NHL), a standard game consists of three periods, each lasting 20 minutes. This results in 60 minutes of regular playtime. However, the actual time spectators spend watching a game is considerably longer due to various factors.

Ask Hotbot: How long is a hockey game?

How many quarters in hockey?

In contrast to many other sports, hockey does not follow the traditional division of play into quarters. Instead, hockey games are divided into periods. This structure is pivotal to understanding how the game is played, how strategies are formed, and how the flow of the game is maintained.

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What is icing in hockey?

Icing is a fundamental rule in the sport of ice hockey, crucial for maintaining the flow and fairness of the game. Despite its simplicity, the rule can be somewhat confusing for newcomers or even seasoned fans who might not be familiar with its nuances. In essence, icing occurs when a player shoots the puck across both the center red line and the opposing team's goal line without the puck being touched by another player, leading to a stoppage in play.

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