Are you wondering, how long is an ice hockey game? We have the answers for you! What is the official playing time? How long are the intermissions? What is the average total time of a game? What determines the length? How long were the longest games in history? Let’s dive right into it!
How long is the NHL ice hockey game?
The official playing time of ice hockey game is 60 minutes (three 20-minute periods). If it’s tied after 60 minutes, the play continues with overtime. The total average time of NHL game is 2 hours and 30 minutes (including stoppages and intermissions). It might be much longer if overtime is played.
In the regular season, the play continues with 5-minute sudden-death overtime followed by shootouts. In the NHL playoffs, the play continues with 20-minute sudden death periods until one team scores (no shootouts). The sudden death rule means that the game ends immediately after one team scores.
The intermissions between periods are 18 minutes long with no intermission before overtime and shootouts in the regular season and 15 minutes intermissions before every overtime period in the playoffs.
How long are hockey games outside of the NHL?
The rules for the different leagues are quite similar, however, there are some differences, let’s have a look at them:
How long are international ice hockey games (Olympics, World Championships, etc.)?
The rules for international hockey (IIHF – International Ice Hockey Federation) are the same as in NHL – three 20-minute periods. The only difference is that the intermissions are only 15 minutes long.
How long are hockey games in other professional leagues?
The rules for most other professional leagues are the same as international rules. Three 20-minute periods and 15-minute intermissions.
How long is a college ice hockey game?
Most minor leagues have the same rules as NHL – three 20-minute periods. The games are a little shorted just because of usually shorter intermissions and no commercial breaks.
How long is a minor league ice hockey game?
Most minor leagues have the exact same rules as NHL – three 20-minute periods with 18-minute intermissions. Followed by overtime and shootouts.
How long are high school and youth ice hockey games?
Most high school and youth hockey games are played for three 15-minute periods with 2-minute intermissions. The total time usually doesn’t exceed 1 hour and 30 minutes.
How long are recreational or kid’s hockey games?
At the recreational level and kid’s level, the game is usually played at runtime, which means that the timer doesn’t stop, when there is a whistle. The clocks run the whole time till the end of the period (except for some special occasions such as serious injury or technical problems with the rink).
This means, that recreational games usually last between 1 hour 15 minutes and 1 hour 30 minutes in total time.
How does the hockey game last in real-time on average?
The average total time of a National Hockey League game is around 2 hours and 30 minutes. This includes:
- Three 20-minute periods of play
- Two 18-minute intermissions
- Game stoppages (the game clock stops after every whistle).
- Commercial breaks
- Potential injuries and technical problems
The vast majority of the games last between 2 hours and 20 minutes and 2 hours and 45 minutes.
The game can last much longer if it goes to the overtime, especially in the play-offs. The longest game ever played in NHL lasted 176 minutes of playing time (six overtime periods), which was around 6 hours of total time.
2 hours and 30 minutes is the most common scheduled time for broadcasting hockey games.
What determines the length of the hockey game?
1) Playing time
The first important factor is playing time. The vast majority of games last 60 minutes of playing time, however, it might be less on some occasions. High school and kid’s games are shorter.
2) Length of intermissions
NHL and AHL games have 18 minutes long intermissions, other leagues usually have just 15 minutes intermissions. High school and kid’s games usually have just very short intermissions.
3) Commercial breaks
Commercial breaks are another factor, which prolongs the game. They are in all NHL games and in most other broadcasted games. NHL has three 2-minute commercial breaks each period, which makes it a total of 18 minutes of commercials during the game.
4) Whether the game goes to overtime
During the regular season, the game can go to overtime and shootouts, which might prolong the game by up to 30 minutes. It might be even much more during the playoffs as there are no shootouts. The longest games ever played took around 6 hours before the overtime goal was scored. Many fans in the building fell asleep. However, these are extremely rare, the vast majority of games are decided during the first or second overtime. Yet, even one overtime can prolong the game by up to one hour (including intermission).
5) Game flow (stoppage time)
Game flow has a great impact on the time as well. There are games, which are very fluent and referees almost never need to whistle. On the other hand, there are games with so many scrimmages, penalties, icings, offsides, etc., that there are just so many stoppages, which prolong the game significantly.
6) Potential injuries
Ice-hockey is a hard-fought game and injuries happen. Most of the time, they don’t prolong the game much because the injured player just goes to the locker room and the game can continue. However, once in a while, there is a more serious injury that the player needs to be taken out of the rink on a stretcher, which prolongs the game.
7) Potential technical problems
Once in a while, there are some technical problems such as broken glass, melted ice, broken timer, etc. These can also prolong the game.
8) Pregame ceremonies
There are also pregame ceremonies during some games, which delay the start of the game by a few minutes.
How long is overtime?
If the game is tied after 60 minutes of play at the end of regulation time, the game continues to overtime. The extra time is played with the sudden-death rule, which means that the game ends immediately after one of the teams scores a goal. There are a few different rules for overtime:
NHL – Regular season
- 5-minute overtime
- Played 3 on 3
- Followed by 3 shootouts
NHL – playoffs
- 20-minute overtime periods
- 15-minute intermissions
- No shootouts (there could be infinite overtime periods until one team scores a goal).
IIHF (Olympic Games and World Championships)
- Preliminary round – 5-minute overtime followed by shootouts
- Play-offs except for the gold-medal game – 10-minute overtime followed by shootouts
- Gold-medal game – 20-minute overtime followed by shootouts
All playoff games on IIHF tournaments are played 4 on 4.
How long are intermissions?
The important note is that the intermission timer starts when the last official (referee) leaves the ice. How long are the intermissions?
- The NHL intermissions between periods are 18 minutes long (it used to be 17 minutes, but they changed it to 18 minutes a few years back).
- There are no intermissions before overtime and shootouts in the regular-season games.
- There are 15-minute intermissions before overtime periods in the playoff games.
IIHF (Olympic Games and World Championships)
- The intermissions between periods on IIHF tournaments are 15 minutes long.
- There are 3-minute intermissions before overtime (except the gold medal game).
- There is a 15-minute intermission before overtime in the gold medal game.
Commercial breaks are another factor, which prolongs the game. In the NHL game, there are three 2-minute commercial time-outs during each period. These are taken at the first stoppages of play after the 14:00, 10:00, and 6:00 marks in each period.
The commercial breaks can’t be taken in these situations (they are postponed to the next stoppage):
- after a goal
- after an icing
- during power-play
- during the last 30 seconds of the first and second period
- during the last 2 minutes of the third period
- during video review
The commercial breaks are also used for cleaning the snow from the important zones of the ice (goal creases, in front of the benches and penalty boxes, around the circles).
The longest hockey games ever in NHL history
The longest hockey game ever played lasted whopping 176 minutes! It happened in the early hockey era in 1936 between Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Maroons. Mud Bruneteau was the lucky goal scorer. He scored in the 6th overtime period (9th total period).
The longest game of hockey in the modern post-expansion era lasted 152 minutes and happened in 2000 between Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins. Keith Primeau scored in the 5th overtime period (8th total period).
List of the longest hockey games in NHL history:
|Playing time||Date||Winning team||Loosing team||Score||Scorer|
|176:30||March 24, 1936||Detroit||Montreal Maroons||1:0||Mud Bruneteau|
|164:46||April 3, 1933||Toronto||Boston||1:0||Ken Doraty|
|152:01||May 4, 2000||Philadelphia||Pittsburgh||2:1||Keith Primeau|
|150:27||Aug 11, 2020||Tampa Bay||Columbus||3:2||Brayden Point|
|140:48||April 24, 2003||Anaheim||Dallas||4:3||Petr Sýkora|
|139:15||April 24, 1996||Pittsburgh||Washington||3:2||Petr Nedvěd|
|138:06||April 11, 2007||Vancouver||Dallas||5:4||Henrik Sedin|
|130:18||March 23, 1943||Toronto||Detroit||3:2||Jack McLean|
|129:03||May 4, 2008||Dallas||San Jose||2:1||Brenden Morrow|
|128:52||March 28, 1930||Montreal Canadiens||NY Rangers||2:1||Gus Rivers|
|128:47||April 18, 1987||NY Islanders||Washington||3:2||Pat LaFontaine|
|125:43||April 27, 1994||Buffalo||New Jersey||1:0||Dave Hannan|
|121:09||March 27, 1951||Montreal Canadiens||Detroit||3:2||Maurice Richard|
|120:40||March 27, 1938||NY Americans||NY Rangers||3:2||Lorne Carr|
|119:32||March 26, 1932||NY Rangers||Montreal Canadiens||4:3||Fred Cook|
How long before the game should fans arrive?
The good rule of thumb is to arrive around 45 minutes before the scheduled game time. Why this early? Well, you can arrive last minute, however, there are many things you might need or want to do before the game such as:
- Find your seat.
- Use a restroom.
- Buy some food and drinks.
- Buy some souvenirs.
- Look around the arena.
You might arrive even a little bit earlier if you would like to see warm-ups. These usually start 30 minutes before the scheduled game start and last 15 minutes. Therefore, for instance, if the scheduled game start is at 7:00 pm, the warm-ups are between 6:30 pm – 6:45 pm.
Read also: Ice Hockey Terms – The Ultimate Glossary
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Adriana & Matěj
Travelers, sport enthusiasts and photographers behind this blog. Creating high-quality and informative guides for your travels. Read more about us here.
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