How long is a hockey game?

HotbotBy HotBotUpdated: June 19, 2024

Standard Duration of Professional Hockey Games

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.


Between each of the three periods, there are two intermissions. Each intermission typically lasts 15 to 18 minutes. These breaks allow players to rest and strategize, and they also provide time for ice resurfacing. Therefore, the two intermissions add approximately 30 to 36 minutes to the total duration of the game.

Stoppage Time

Unlike soccer, hockey does not have a continuous clock. The game clock stops for various reasons, including:

  • Goals
  • Penalties
  • Offsides and Icing
  • Injuries
  • Commercial Breaks

These stoppages can add significant time to the overall duration of the game. On average, stoppages can add another 30 to 40 minutes.

Overtime and Shootouts

If the game is tied at the end of regulation time, it goes into overtime. Regular-season NHL games have a 5-minute sudden-death overtime period, where the first team to score wins. If no team scores during this period, a shootout follows to determine the winner. In playoffs, overtime periods are 20 minutes long and continue indefinitely until a team scores. Overtime and shootouts can add anywhere from a few minutes to over an hour, depending on the game's circumstances.

Television Broadcasts

Television broadcasts often include pre-game shows, in-game analysis, and post-game discussions, which can extend the total time commitment for viewers. A televised NHL game typically runs for about 2.5 to 3 hours, including all the additional content.

International and Junior Leagues

International competitions and junior leagues may have different rules regarding game length. For example, International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) games follow similar three-period structures but may have variations in intermission lengths and overtime rules.

Amateur and Recreational Hockey

In amateur and recreational leagues, the duration of a hockey game can vary. Many leagues have shorter periods, often 15 or 18 minutes, and fewer intermissions. Some recreational leagues may also implement running clocks to limit game time, making these games shorter than professional matches.

Factors Influencing Game Length

Several factors can influence the length of a hockey game:

  • Level of Play: Higher levels of play tend to have more stoppages and longer intermissions.
  • Game Importance: Playoff and championship games often take longer due to added scrutiny, reviews, and potentially longer overtimes.
  • Broadcast Requirements: Televised games may include more commercial breaks, extending the game duration.
  • Game Pace: Games with more penalties, goals, and stoppages naturally take longer.

Historical Changes and Trends

The length of hockey games has evolved over time. In the early 20th century, games were often shorter due to less structured play and fewer stoppages. The introduction of television broadcasts and commercial breaks in the mid-20th century lengthened game durations. Recent trends, such as video reviews and player safety protocols, have further extended game times.

Unique Scenarios

There are unique scenarios that can significantly affect the length of a hockey game:

  • Multiple Overtimes: The longest NHL game on record lasted over six hours, with six overtime periods.
  • Weather Delays: Outdoor games such as the NHL Winter Classic can experience weather delays, extending the game's duration.
  • Technical Issues: Equipment failures, such as broken glass or ice issues, can cause unexpected delays.

As we have explored, the length of a hockey game is influenced by a myriad of factors, from the structured periods and intermissions to the unpredictable nature of overtime and stoppages. The evolution of game rules and the introduction of television broadcasts have further complicated what might seem like a straightforward question. Factors like the level of play, game importance, and unique scenarios like multiple overtimes or weather delays all contribute to the variable length of a hockey game. In essence, while the standard duration is set, the actual experience can be much more dynamic and unpredictable, offering a unique experience every time the puck drops.

Related Questions

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?

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.

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When is hockey season?

The term "hockey season" can vary depending on the type of hockey being referred to, the league in question, and the geographical location. Generally, hockey seasons are divided into professional, amateur, and international categories, each with its own timeline and schedule.

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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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