If you are new to the game of hockey, you might be wondering a bit about the time investment that is required.
So how long is a hockey game? For most situations, a hockey game lasts two to two and a half hours long. This assumes that you are watching or playing in a standard game which includes three 20 minute periods along with an intermission break in between. If the game includes TV timeouts like you see in many higher leagues, you could expect the game to be closer to three hour range without overtime.
If you are in the mood for more details on the average lengths and why the game requires this sort of time investment then read on!
Regulation and Overtime in Professional Leagues
Hockey is like most professional sports in that the games are controlled by a clock.
Only a few sports, like baseball and tennis, are not over until someone actually wins the game. In baseball, someone should win within nine innings and in tennis, men must win the best of five sets while women must win the best of three. With baseball and tennis, games can continue indefinitely until someone wins.
In hockey, regulation games such as those in the NHL are 60 minutes in length and divided into three periods of 20 minutes each.
After the first and second periods, players are given 17 minutes to rest and get ready for the next period. Also during the 17-minute intermissions, the ice is cleaned by a Zamboni so that players have a safe surface upon which to continue the game.
With a game like hockey, if the game is tied, then extra time is put on the clock. This is similar to basketball and football.
Also, in these professional sports – hockey, basketball, and football, the clock is stopped when the referees blow their whistles. So, most hockey games actually take much longer than the 60 minutes that are set aside for playing.
Stopping the Clock in an NHL Game
To keep track of the time, arenas have an official clock and it is set to count down from 20 minutes all the way to 0. When the officials declare the puck dead, the clock stops.
There are only a few instances that stop the clock. They include:
- When a penalty is given
- When a player is hurt
- When the puck leaves the rink
- When a timeout is called
- When the goalie does not return the puck to the ice
After these stoppages, players have a face off. Then, the clock starts back up again.
Regular-season NHL Overtime Rules
If the game is still tied when the 60-minute regulation game is completed, the game then goes into overtime.
Regular season overtime is different than playoff season overtime. During the regular season, overtime is five minutes.
During the regular season, if a team does not score in the five minutes of overtime, that’s it. The game will then be determined by a three-player shoot-out.
Eventually, someone will win, but the shootout could last for a long time. The longest shootout lasted 20 rounds!
NHL Playoffs Overtime Rules
The time allotment in a playoff game is slightly different than the regular season games, especially during overtime.
Shootouts do not exist in playoff games. Instead, each overtime period is 20 minutes with a 15-minute intermission if a team does not score in the overtime period then a new overtime period is played. The game is over as soon as a team scores a goal.
Even though hockey games are 60 minutes of regulation game play, most games last much longer than 60 minutes. From the drop of the first puck until the game is over, the average game lasts slightly more than two hours.
What happens when the game is televised?
Commercial breaks have rules, too.
The NHL Commercial Coordinator makes sure that advertisements do not break these rules. Commercials are fit into the games, but when there are goals or icing calls, commercial breaks are not allowed.
Other League Time Lengths
The time in other hockey leagues vary.
For example, USA Hockey clarifies that the maximum length of the game is 60 minutes with three periods that last 20 minutes. They also have intermissions that last 15 minutes. However, if a USA Hockey game needs to be shorter, it can be. They simply cannot exceed 60 minutes.
The youngest youth leagues have shorter game times.
Pee Wee C
The Pee Wee C leagues start with a 15-minute period, then the second and third periods are 20 minutes each. The game shouldn’t exceed 90 total minutes. The Pee Wee League does all time outs.
The Atom leagues have three 15-minute periods.
The Novice division includes two 15-minute periods with a third that lasts 20 minutes. No timeouts are allowed in the Atom or Novice divisions.
There are a few unusual rules in youth hockey that do not happen in professional leagues. For example, if there is a mercy-rule game happening, the clock will continue to run without stopping in the third period.
States get to decide how to run their high school games, and many will have three 15-minute periods. The same standards apply for mercy-rule games, with the clock running without stopping.
In Conclusion – Hockey Game length
As you can see the length of time it takes to complete a hockey game can include many different factors. However in general, if you are looking at any sort of professional leagues then you can expect around a 2 to 2.5 hour time investment.