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How Long Is a Hockey Game

The game of Hockey has hundreds of rules, penalties, and little nuances that make is as amazing as it is.  While learning all of those can take months if not years, a question often asked is ‘How long is a hockey game?’ and that is what we are here to talk about.  Of course, it is not as simple as a one line answer as there are different leagues, ages, and skill types that all use varying game lengths.  Read on for our detailed breakdown that should hopefully answer all your questions!

To give you a quick and dirty answer – most professional and higher tier hockey games consist of three 20 minute periods, with two 15 minute intermissions.  The time it will take to play these games is usually between one hour and forty five minutes and two hours and fifteen minutes.  However, if the game is televised, you can expect an extra 30 minutes or so added to both of those, bringing the game length to around two hours and fifteen minutes to two hours and forty five minutes

Regulation Period Length

This is one part that all hockey games have in common, that all professional leagues have three 20 minute regulation periods.  In the NHL between each period is an 18 minute intermission where the players rest, and zambonis resurface the ice to make it nice and smooth for the next period!  Hockey’s regulation time consists of three periods, whereas soccer consists of two halves, or football and basketball consist of four quarters.  Similar to Football or Basketball, Hockey can go into overtime if the score is tied at the end of regulation.  Regulation periods in hockey are where teams try to score as many goals as possible to win the game.  If one team has more goals at the end of regulation, they are the victors!

Regulation Hockey Period Length – 20 minutes x 3 periods
NHL Intermission Length – 18 minutes x 2 intermissions

What If A Game Is Televised? What are hockey TV Timeouts?

Quite often hockey games will be either on local or national television.  If this is the case, TV timeouts are dispersed throughout the periods.  The timekeeper will signal a TV timeout by lighting a red light above the penalty boxes.

These TV timeouts last two minutes each, and there are three per period.  Based on the play and when whistles happen, TV timeouts happen as close to the 6, 10, and 14 minute marks as is feasible.  Play will never be stopped specifically for a TV timeout.

NHL TV Timeouts – 2 minutes per
Number of TV Timeouts – 3 per period

Overtime Period Length

Regular Season Overtime Length

During the regular season if, at the end of regulation, the score is tied, be it 0-0 or 10-10, there will be a brief break and the overtime period will start.  Overtime can be thought of as the golden goal period, where the first team to score a goal wins the game, and the game ends immediately after that goal is scored.  Teams typically receive one points in the standings for losing in overtime and receive two for winning in OT.  Overtime period lengths during the regular season are 5 minutes long.  Another thing to note is in the NHL, overtime only is played with only 3 players plus a goalie on for each team!

Break between regulation and overtime – 2 minutes
Regular season overtime period length – 5 minutes

Total overtime length with no stoppages – 7 minutes

 

Playoff Overtime Length

Overtime in playoffs is a different story altogether – overtime periods during playoffs are 20 minutes in length, the same as a regulation period!  Even crazier, if you don’t score and the overtime period ends, another overtime period is played until someone scores.  I have seen games go into the 4th overtime and it is a crazy thing to witness!  In rare events like this hockey games can take 4 or 5 hours to complete!

 

History of the Overtime Period

The first NHL overtime period was played during the 1983-1984 NHL season.  Overtime was played for 5 minutes with a 5v5 lineup up until the 2015-2016 NHL season when a rule making the overtime 3v3 was implemented.  Almost any hockey fan will agree, the implementation of 3 on 3 overtime has let to a much more exciting product!

The Shootout

Minor leagues like the ECHL and AHL adopted the shootout much earlier than the NHL, with the AHL as an example bringing the shootout in in 2004-05.  The NHL brought the shootout in after its lockout for the 2005-06 season.  The NHL employs a 3 player shootout, with each team sending 3 players to shootout.  However if a team has its first two shooters miss and the other teams first two score, the shootout will end early as there is no change for the first team to come back! The shootout was immediately met with mixed reviews on ending a game in such a fashion, but undoubtedly brought more excitement to the fans than simply ending the game in a tie!

Break between overtime and shootout – 2 minutes
Typical shootout length – 5 minutes

Total shootout length ~ 7 minutes

What Causes Stoppages In Play?

With all the factors that go into an NHL game, if you are attending one, it is wise to set aside at least 2.5 hours and up to 3 hours for a regular season game.  If you attend a playoff game, don’t make plans after because you could be there all night!

– A goal is scored
– When the goalie ‘freezes’ the puck
– A player takes a penalty
– Two players fight
– A player is injured
– The puck is shot out of play (into the crowd or players bench)
– An offside is called
– An icing is called
– The net is knocked off its moorings
– When fans throw octopus’ or rats on the ice (No lie, these things have happened in Detroit and Florida respectively)

As you can see there are many reasons for whistles, which usually happen every 2 or 3 minutes and are the main reason why games creep up to that 3 hour length!

Length of an NHL Game

With all the factors that go into an NHL game, if you are attending one, it is wise to set aside at least 2.5 hours and up to 3 hours for a regular season game.  If you attend a playoff game, don’t make plans after because you could be there all night!

Length of an AHL Game

The AHL, which stands for American Hockey League, is the second best league in North America, and is a feeder league for the NHL.  This league typically has players fresh out of junior or college that are hoping to improve step by step and make their way to the NHL.

In the AHL shares all the same game length rules as the NHL.  20 minute regulation periods, 5 minute overtime, and a 3 man shootout if necessary.  An AHL game will take in total around 2.5 – 3 hours, exactly like an NHL game.  Similar to the NHL if the game goes to overtime in the playoffs, it goes indefinitely until someone scores!

Length of an ECHL Game

The ECHL is the third best pro league in America, and is a feeder league for the AHL.  It stands for the East Coast Hockey League, however, nowadays teams are found all over the place not just on the east coast!

The only difference the ECHL has from the AHL or NHL is that the overtime period is 7 minutes long instead of 5!

KHL Game Length

The KHL, or Kontinental Hockey League is considered to be the best league in the world after the NHL.  It is played primarily in Russia with several teams in Europe and even a team in China playing in it.  They also only have a 62 game season compared to the NHL’s 82 games.

The KHL switched to a 3 on 3 overtime format in 2016, and now follows all the same game time lengths as the NHL

CHL, Junior Hockey, and College Hockey Game Lengths

These various leagues across North America house some of hockey’s greatest players typically between the ages of 17-22.  All of these leagues follow NHL formats, except NCAA during the regular season allows games to end in a tie!

Minor Hockey Game Length

Higher level minor hockey leagues can have 20 minute periods, while lower level teams will generally have three 15 minute periods.  Whether the games go to overtime or shootout varies widely and you would have to research that specific league!  There are hundreds of them, with every city or state having their own governing body who makes the rules typically.

Conclusion

We hope our article has helped you out!  To sum everything up, if you are watching a major junior or professional game, budget 2.5 – 3 hours.  If you are watching a minor hockey league game, they are typically limited to 1.5 hours or so, but you can check the ice time slot to know forsure!  We hope you enjoy your next game and can now budget your time accordingly!

Need a new hockey stick?  Check out our review of all the top hockey sticks available today!

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