How Long is a Hockey Game? An In-Depth Exploration

Hockey, whether played on ice or in a field, is a dynamic sport beloved by millions around the globe. It’s known for its fast-paced action and intense gameplay.

If you’re new to hockey or considering attending a game, one of the most common questions you might ask is, “How long is a hockey game?”

In this article, we’ll delve into the specifics of hockey game durations, and the factors that influence them, and provide some useful insights for both new fans and seasoned spectators.

How Long Does a Hockey Game Last?

Typically, a standard ice hockey game consists of three periods, each lasting 20 minutes. However, the total duration of a hockey game extends beyond these 60 minutes of play due to intermissions, stoppages, and potential overtime or shootout scenarios.

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Understanding Hockey Game Timings

Regular Game Duration

In professional leagues like the NHL, the game is divided into three periods of 20 minutes each. Between each period, there is an intermission, usually lasting about 17 minutes.

These intermissions are necessary for both player recovery and ice maintenance, which is crucial for ensuring the game can be played safely and professionally.

Overtime and Shootouts

When the game is tied at the end of the third period, it may go into overtime. Overtime is an additional period meant to determine a winner if the game is tied after the regular 60 minutes. In the NHL, during the regular season, overtime is a 5-minute period played with three skaters aside, followed by a shootout if the game remains tied.

In playoffs, however, teams continue to play 20-minute sudden-death overtime periods until a goal is scored, which can significantly extend the total game time.

Stoppage Time

Stoppages also play a significant role in extending the game duration. These can occur for various reasons like puck out of play, penalties, goals, and injuries. These stoppages mean that the clock is paused, and no game time runs while these issues are resolved.

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Factors Affecting Game Length

Several factors can affect the length of a hockey game, including:

  • Level of Play: Amateur games often have shorter periods and less formal intermission procedures.
  • League Regulations: Different leagues may have variations in rules concerning period length, overtime, and intermissions.
  • Playoffs and Special Circumstances: Playoff games or final matches often have longer overtimes and can last significantly longer than regular-season games.

Preparing for a Hockey Game: Timing and Tips

When planning to watch a hockey game, whether live or on television, considering the timing and duration of the game is essential. Here are some tips to maximize your hockey-viewing experience:

Arrival Time

If attending a game live, aim to arrive at least 30 minutes before the puck drops. This gives you ample time to find your seat, grab concessions, and soak in the pre-game atmosphere.

Planning for Intermissions

Use intermissions wisely. They’re perfect for restroom breaks, refilling on snacks, or discussing game strategies and standout plays with fellow fans.

Post-Game Considerations

After the game, it may take some time to exit the venue, especially in larger arenas. If you’re catching public transport, check the schedules as some services may align with game end times.

Enhancing Your Hockey Game Experience

To truly enjoy a hockey game, understanding the nuances of the sport is beneficial. Here are a few aspects to consider:

Learn the Rules

Familiarizing yourself with basic hockey rules will help you appreciate the strategies and skills displayed during the game.

Follow Player and Team Stories

Knowing the players and team histories can add a layer of excitement and personal investment in the game’s outcome.

Engage with Other Fans

Whether you’re attending the game or participating in a viewing party, interacting with other fans can enhance your experience and provide different perspectives on the game.

Common Misconceptions About Hockey Game Duration

Misconception 1: All hockey games last exactly 60 minutes.
Reality: While the game itself is divided into three 20-minute periods, the total time including stoppages, intermissions, and potential overtimes can extend much beyond that.

Misconception 2: Overtime is always a shootout.
Reality: In regular-season NHL games, a tie after overtime leads to a shootout. However, in playoffs, teams play multiple sudden-death overtimes if needed, without any shootouts.

Misconception 3: Intermissions are quick breaks.
Reality: Intermissions are 17 minutes long, allowing for significant activities like ice maintenance and strategy revisions by teams.

How Long is a College Hockey Game

A typical college hockey game is structured similarly to professional NHL games, consisting of three periods, each lasting 20 minutes. Therefore, the total regulation time for a college hockey game is 60 minutes.

However, this does not include the time for intermissions, which are breaks between the periods. In college hockey, there are usually two intermissions, each lasting about 15 minutes.

If the game is tied at the end of regulation time, it may go into overtime. The length of the overtime period can vary depending on the specific rules of the college hockey league.

Some leagues use a 5-minute overtime period played with three skaters a side, followed by a shootout if the game remains tied. Others might have longer overtime periods during playoffs.

Therefore, while the total playing time is 60 minutes, the actual duration of a game including intermissions and potential overtime can be around 2 to 2.5 hours.

FAQs About Hockey Game Duration

What is the average duration of an NHL game?

The average NHL game lasts about 2.5 hours when including all stoppages, intermissions, and the typical 60 minutes of play.

Can a hockey game end in a tie?

In regular-season NHL games, ties are resolved with an overtime period followed by a shootout if necessary. However, in the playoffs, games continue with additional overtime periods until a team scores, eliminating the possibility of a tie.

How long are intermissions in a hockey game?

Intermissions in professional hockey typically last about 17 minutes. During this time, ice maintenance occurs and players rest and strategize with their coaches.


Understanding “how long is a hockey game” involves more than just the 60 minutes of play. It’s about embracing the culture, the atmosphere, and the shared experiences that come with watching a thrilling sport like hockey.

Whether you’re a seasoned aficionado or a newcomer to the sport, each game offers a unique adventure. So, get ready to enjoy the excitement, the tension of overtime finishes, and the joy of shared celebrations. Hockey is not just a game; it’s an experience worth savoring.