How long is an ice hockey game How long is an ice hockey game

Demystifying the Time Structure of an Ice Hockey Match

When you are visiting a hockey game, you wish to know how long an ice hockey game is. An ice hockey game is scheduled for 60 minutes, but does it take only 60 minutes in total?

If you are planning to go to a game of ice hockey, you should always be aware of the time you are going to watch.

Ice hockey is a physical sport and well-known in North America, Europe and a national game of Canada.

An ice hockey game is between two teams with six players each who wish to win the competition on an ice rink. Team members wear skates because of the ice.

The goal of team members is to attain scores extra than the opposite team. Players use their sticks to propel the puck into the net.

This Olympic sport has become one of the most well-known International sports with more than a million players performing worldwide in the leagues. It is the most famous game in Canada.

1. Length of an NHL Hockey Games

According to playing time rules, a hockey league like an NHL game is 60 minutes. This 60-minute playing time is not only for NHL hockey games but also for other professional hockey games like European leagues, AHL and ECHL.

But do these games take only 60 minutes? Let’s see!

1.1. How Many Periods Are There in an NHL Game?

In general, NHL hockey consists of 3 periods of 20 minutes each. Each period game starts when the clock is set for 20 minutes by the clock keeper.

Also, in the end, if the game is tied, the team will have one overtime period of 5 minutes. If they are still tied the game will go on in the same way with more overtime periods.

Also, in the end, the referee stops the clock if any violation takes place and the team that violates the rule undergoes the penalty.

Thus, this means the game in actuality doesn’t just take 60 minutes, instead, it takes almost two and a half hours to three hours.

2. Other Things That Expand the Time of the Game?

Ice hockey goalie defending the goal.
Image by Andy Hall/ Unsplash

Various things increase the timing of the game, including:

  • Game stoppage because of rule infractions
  • TV timeouts which show commercials
  • Intermissions
  • If the game is tied, an extra 5 minutes of overtime period is added.

2.1. TV Commercials

At every NHL hockey game, the commercial crew deals with all the commercial breaks. It has become part of professional games.

The crew time fits this commercial in the game whenever they think is required. Also, they make sure no commercial breaks come up after the goal.

Due to all these points, the game could not be completed in a regulation time of 60 minutes.

3. What Adds to Changing the Real-Time in the Game?

Man taking aim for goal on hockey goalie
Image by Andy Hall/ Unsplash

As we have seen, ice hockey in general doesn’t only take just 60 minutes. NHL games are split up into various periods, let’s see what activities take place in the middle of these first and second periods and second and third periods.

3.1. Intermissions

Intermissions in an NHL game are usually 17 minutes long. Generally, intermissions take place two times in the normal game:

  • The first intermission is between the first and second period
  • The second intermission is between the second and third periods.

These intermissions can be for relaxation and for entertainment, which includes sessions between fans on the ice or youth hockey teams to play for a while. Also, during this time, the crew of the game takes time to repair and clean the ice.

Intermissions are an important part of the game for hockey players. It is an opportunity for players who got injured to allow their nurses for a quick check-up. Players can warm up and relax for a time.

Since the periods are 20 minutes and five minutes of the overtime period, this adds there is a 15-minute intermission between the last period and the first overtime period.

3.2. The time between regulation and overtime

When the game is tied, the overtime period takes place, and the game continues after the two minutes gap. There will not be any intermission between the regulation and overtime, instead, it will go on after two minutes.

If any of the team scores during the first overtime period, the game ends instantly but if no one has scored during 5 minutes of overtime, there will be a shootout. Teams get three shootout attempts and then the team that scores most of the goals wins.

3.3. NHL Playoffs

Since, when the game keeps on going and in the playoff games, the game cannot go on with a shootout, then the game resumes with 20 minutes of usual periods. These periods have 15 minutes of intermission. This keeps on going until the winner is decided.

However, in the playoffs game, the game can continue and keep on going for four to five hours.

4. Length of College Hockey Games

Generally, professional hockey game like NHL and college hockey game has the same length. The regulation time of college hockey games is also similar to NHL games of 60 minutes.

The process of the game with intermission can make the length of the game two to three hours.

Since the production is not much in college hockey games, therefore the game can also end within a shorter period as compared to professional games.

6. Length of Recreational Games

Kids playing an ice hockey game
Image by Kenny Eliason/ Unsplash

Recreational games in actuality are almost 60 minutes. According to the regulations, hockey game timing is 60 minutes. Since these recreational games are usually on kids’ levels, then the game is played until the clock stops at the end, which is after 60 minutes.

In the middle it normally has 15 minutes warm-up break, otherwise, the game continues. This means recreational games last almost 1 hour to 1.5 hours to complete.

Final Words

Two persons playing ice hockey with referee
Image by Jerry Yu/ Unsplash

If you are a hockey lover and you would like to watch these games especially professional hockey leagues like NHL, you must have got a bit of knowledge about how long these ice hockey games last.

All the ice hockey games are of 60 minutes according to the regulation, but considering other factors they can last a bit longer. The three periods in ice hockey can only define how long an NHL game will last. In history, the longest NHL game was played for 176 minutes in 1936.

Ontario Hockey League, Kids Recreational League, College Hockey League, NHL or Kontinental Hockey League has three periods with 15 to 17 minutes of intermission.

Whereas high school games and youth hockey games last a bit different. High school hockey games have three periods with 15 to 17 minutes each with 12 minutes of intermission. Similarly, youth hockey games have periods with 12 to 20 minutes of periods with 12 minutes of intermission.

Therefore, you must always make sure how long you are going to stay in an ice hockey game. In this way, you can enjoy your game without thinking much about your work because you must have scheduled them according to the time of the game.


Q1. How long do other professional games last?

According to regulation, 60 minutes is scheduled for every hockey game. But when you consider other factors like overtime periods, intermissions, commercial breaks, and shootouts, professional leagues last a bit longer compared to the regulation.

Therefore, to enjoy the game you can consider giving almost 2.5 to 3 hours to it.

Q2. How can we stay safe during ice hockey games?

If you are going to ice hockey for the first time consider following these steps. This is because NHL hockey is an exciting game, you will find yourself in the crowd.

  • Consider going with someone. If you go alone you can feel uncomfortable because of the crowd.
  • If you will not sit in a crowded area, it can result in some dangerous circumstances. So consider sitting in a crowded region.
  • Standing, again and again, can disturb others.

Q3. What to wear to a game of ice hockey?

When you are visiting an ice hockey, you always find yourself in a situation, about how to outfit yourself for an ice hockey game. Wear some comfortable and cozy outfits to the game, because ice hockey games are usually cold.

Last Updated on by ayeshayusuf


  • Shifali Maheshwari

    I am a creator with a journalist's pov, I am a reader and writer with professional reading and writing skills. Currently, I am interning in Icy Tales as a content writer.

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