How long does a hockey game last?

HotbotBy HotBotUpdated: July 4, 2024

Regulation Time

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.

Breaks and Intermissions

Between each period, there is a 15 to 20-minute intermission. These breaks allow the ice to be resurfaced and give players time to rest. Therefore, if you consider these intermissions, a 60-minute game can extend to about two and a half hours from start to finish.


If the game is tied at the end of regulation time, it proceeds to overtime. In the NHL regular season, overtime is a 5-minute period played with 3 skaters on each side, plus a goaltender. If no team scores during this period, the game moves to a shootout.

Playoff Overtime

In contrast, during the NHL playoffs, overtime periods are 20 minutes long and played with full teams. The game continues in these 20-minute increments until a goal is scored, making playoff games potentially much longer than regular-season games.


If the game remains tied after the 5-minute overtime in the regular season, a shootout decides the winner. Each team selects three players to take penalty shots. If the score remains tied after these shots, the shootout continues with sudden death rounds until one team scores and the other does not.

TV Timeouts

To accommodate commercial breaks, televised hockey games include TV timeouts. These occur at the first stoppage of play after the 6, 10, and 14-minute marks of each period. These breaks typically last 2 minutes each, further extending the length of the game.

Delays and Stoppages

Beyond scheduled breaks, unscheduled stoppages can add time. These include:

  • Injuries: The game stops for injured players to receive medical attention.
  • Fights: Fighting leads to penalties and sometimes ejections, causing delays.
  • Reviews: Officials may review plays to confirm goals or penalties, which can take several minutes.

Warm-ups and Pre-Game Ceremonies

Before the official start of the game, players typically warm up for about 15-20 minutes. Additionally, games may feature pre-game ceremonies, such as national anthems, player introductions, and other presentations. These can add another 15-30 minutes to the total time spent in the arena.

Youth and Amateur Hockey

Youth and amateur hockey games often have different formats. These games may consist of shorter periods, typically 15 minutes each, and may not include overtime or shootouts. Breaks and intermissions are also often shorter, making these games last closer to an hour and a half.

International Competitions

International hockey games, such as those in the Olympics or World Championships, generally follow similar rules to professional leagues but can have unique variations. For instance, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) uses a 5-minute overtime followed by a shootout in preliminary rounds, and 10-minute overtimes in medal rounds.

Historical Context

The structure of the game has evolved. Early hockey games were much less formalized, with varying period lengths and rules. The modern format of three 20-minute periods with intermissions became standard in the early 20th century.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does an NHL game last in real-time?

An NHL game typically lasts about 2.5 to 3 hours in real-time, including all stoppages, intermissions, and potential overtime.

Can a hockey game end in a tie?

In the NHL, regular-season games cannot end in a tie due to the introduction of overtime and shootouts. However, in some youth and amateur leagues, ties are still possible.

What is the longest hockey game ever played?

The longest game in NHL history occurred in 1936 when the Detroit Red Wings defeated the Montreal Maroons 1-0 after six overtimes, totaling 176 minutes and 30 seconds of playtime.

The duration of a hockey game can vary considerably based on multiple factors, including regulation time, breaks, overtime, and specific league rules. While professional games like those in the NHL generally last around 2.5 to 3 hours, different formats and levels of play can lead to shorter or longer games. Each element, from intermissions to unexpected delays, contributes to the unique timeline of every hockey game.

Related Questions

How many periods in hockey?

In professional hockey leagues, such as the National Hockey League (NHL), a standard game is divided into three periods. Each period is 20 minutes long, leading to a total of 60 minutes of regulation play. This structure is consistent across most of the world's professional hockey leagues.

Ask Hotbot: How many periods in hockey?

How long do hockey games last?

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.

Ask Hotbot: How long do hockey games last?

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.

Ask Hotbot: How many quarters in hockey?

How long are hockey games?

A typical ice hockey game is structured with three periods, each lasting 20 minutes, which amounts to a total of 60 minutes of playtime. However, the actual time spent in the arena is significantly longer due to various interruptions and intermissions.

Ask Hotbot: How long are hockey games?