How Long is a Hockey Game? (NHL, College, and Recreation)

Ever wondered how and why the thrill of hockey games remains increasing? The fun never ceases to excite you. Why is that so? Because of its time limit! As humans, we become tired and bored of the things that drag on for extended periods. No matter how interesting in the beginning, you will find things monotonous after a time if it fails to give you any pleasurable result.

So, how long is a hockey game? An ice hockey match, in regulation, has a playing time of 60 minutes. This total of 60 minutes is the apparent time generally for a game. However, the game lasts from 2.5 to 3 hours in real time, including all the intermissions, stops, possible overtime, and shootout.

Well, let’s do a deep breakdown of how long a hockey game actually lasts and what factors into its preparation, warmups, intermission, timeout, and overtime. In addition, we’ll look at Olympic, college, and recreational hockey in real time.

How Long Do Ice Hockey Games Actually Last?

All the national hockey leagues such as NHL, AHL, ECHL, and European leagues games are a total of 60 minutes in regulation. These games are divided into three periods, and each period lasts for 20 minutes in total. This 20 minutes period may increase in case of stoppages or NHL transmissions, which constitute 15 minutes.

How Long Do Ice Hockey Games Actually Last

While a game’s length is affected by a variety of factors, including rule infractions, television timeouts (when commercials are shown), intermissions, overtime and shootout.

If the match is tied between the teams, then there are 5 minutes of overtime, and if this overtime still results in no team winning the game, then there is a shootout that determines the winner of that game. In reality, this whole game lasts between 2.5 to 3 hours instead of 60 minutes.

As shown in the chart below, a professional hockey game (starting at 7 pm – 19:00):

07:00National Anthem
07:05Puck Drop for the Start of the First Period
07:45First Intermission
08:00Puck Drop for the Start of the Second Period
08:40Second Intermission
08:55Puck Drop for the Start of the Third Period
09:35End of the Game

TIP OF THE DAY: Are you planning to attend a live game in the near future? Arrive 30 minutes before the game and watch the players warm up before kickoff. Even if you don’t have a ticket, arena ushers will allow you to stand behind the glass. Check out this article about how much fun the NHL warmup is!

How Long are the Intermissions between Periods?

When every single period ends, there are 15 minutes of intermissions, 17 minutes in the case of the Stanley Cup, during which the Zamboni cleans the ice. There may also be some repairing as needed accordingly by the crew responsible for maintenance. So, 15 minutes after each period are added to game playtime.

How Long are the Intermissions between Periods

In playoffs, the overtime goes for 20 minutes in contrast to the overtime of the regular season, where the overtime is of 5 minutes. So, the playoffs have full intermission time between the 3rd period and 1st overtime which is 15 minutes long.

During the regular intermissions, an extra 2 minutes are given to assist the in-house entertainment between periods.

Importance of Intermissions

The reason for this intermission and also for the three periods of the hockey game is that the ice on which the game is being played degrades notably and becomes dangerous for the players to play on; therefore, it is crucial to scrape the surface and clean the ice.

Other Reasons for Extending the Length of NHL Games

Secondly, there are also commercials shown in between. Since ice hockey is a greatly loved sport, marketers and advertisers use this opportunity to target more and more people during this time when people are gathered and focused on the game.

Other Reasons for Extending the Length of NHL Games

The third important reason is the stoppages or the penalties and the injuries etc., which also stop the game and increase its time from the prescribed limit. Also, there is a warm-up time before or sometimes in between the match. There may also be a short meet-up time with fans present there, adding up to the regulated time.

Overtimes also add to playtime. Generally, overtime periods may extend to twenty minutes in the playoffs, while they may be of only five minutes in any regular season. These four are the primary reasons that indicate that ice hockey’s actual playtime is around 2.5 hours.

How Long between Regulation and Overtime?

How Long between Regulation and Overtime

It is essential to note that there is no intermission in case of an overtime period in the regular season of the game. In case of a tie, the game will resume after 2 minutes. The overtime will be of 5 minutes. If no team scores during these 5 minutes, the game will move to the shootout period.

Length of the Game in NHL Playoffs

A playoff game does not end with a shootout like in regular games; instead, they run for almost the same regular game time. Usually, the playoff games keep going on with 20 minutes periods, including the 15 minutes intermission, until one team scores the most.

Length of the Game in NHL Playoffs

Usually, NHL overtime games end within the first 20 minutes period. Nevertheless, a playoff game may easily extend to 4 to 5 hours in actuality due to the multiple overtime periods played.

What is the Longest NHL Game Ever?

With the determined time as 60 minutes and the actual time as 2.5 hours, you must be wondering which was the lengthiest ever NHL game in history. This longest game took place between the Detroit Red Wings and the Montreal Maroons in 1936. The game lasted for a total of 176 minutes and 30 seconds, from 8:30 pm EST Tuesday to 2:25 Wednesday. The game had six overtime.

Today Montreal Maroons are no longer a part of the NHL, and much has changed with time.

Can Hockey Games End in a Tie?

Hockey games today cannot end in a tie because of the new rules adopted by the NHL in 2005. Before this time, it was possible that the games could end in a tie despite the hours of the match but no more now.

If no team wins the match even after overtime, then a shootout comes into action to ultimately decide the winner of the game. The rule is simple; the first team who scores will win the match.

How Long do other Professional League Games take?

Apart from NHL, there are many other leagues in which hockey is played. The standard time for all the other league games is also 60 minutes. The difference lies in the intermission time, 15 minutes or 17 minutes. The following leagues are mentioned below:

  • College Hockey Games (60 Minutes)
  • Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) (60 Minutes)
  • National League (Swiss) (60 Minutes)
  • American Hockey League (AHL) (60 Minutes)
  • East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) (60 Minutes)
  • Western Hockey League (WHL) (60 Minutes)
  • Ontario Hockey League (OHL) (60 Minutes)

Typically, in reality, all these games also take a total of 2.5 hours to end with a fruitful result. But they usually are shorter than the NHL games because they do not have all the factors which increase the playtime of NHL games, like commercials shown in between.

How Long is a Recreational or Kids Hockey Game?

Recreational games are typically played at a run time, which means that the game clock does not stop even in case of a whistle. So, these games most often end within 60 minutes with an addition of a few more minutes.

How Long is a Recreational or Kids Hockey Game

Generally, a recreational game ends in one hour and 15 minutes added, which includes all the time from warm-up until players leave the ice rink.

There is a thing that all recreational players want to start the game fast whenever it gets paused by the referee. Everyone wants to save precious time instead of waiting for the puck to drop.

Few leagues take a short stoppage in the end phase of the game so that the leading team won’t waste time with a lot of stoppages.

However, the higher-end leagues have intermission between each period for the ice cleaning. These game times last for almost 2 hours. These are the game where fresh skilled young talent, 15 to 18 years of age, plays and have chances to get drafted in the NHL or college and junior leagues.


So, in a nutshell, the article provides a deep insight into how long ice hockey games are. It is essential to know the time limit to adequately plan to watch ice hockey games and the information to learn. Knowledge bestows upon you a freshness like nothing else in the world can!

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