What is Shift in Hockey

What is Shift in Hockey? Why are Hockey Shifts Short?

Have you ever wondered what attracts you to ice hockey? One of those attractions is its fast momentum. Ice hockey is one of the fastest games on the surface of the earth and a little aggressive too. But the players shape a game, so keeping hockey fast requires a lot of effort on the players’ part. The players must give their all on the ice for the game to maintain its momentum.

At the same time, humans have limits, so the players have shifts in which they play. And that brings us to this essential question; how long do shifts take for players in hockey?

Generally, the shifts last for about forty-seven seconds on the ice. But there is a difference in duration of shift for the forwards and the defensemen. The shifts of defensemen are longer, with approximately 48.6 seconds, while the forwards last 46 seconds.

Hockey has a rule of thumb for shifts which states that the shifts should be of 45 seconds so that the players give the quality play on the ice. Due to this average shift length, the players might have twenty or sometimes more shifts in a single game. The shift change is known as the line changes, which happen throughout the game.

How Well do Players Shift According to the 45 Second Rule of Thumb? 

The NHL consists of 31 teams. Each team brings 18 players to play the game, including 12 forwards and six defensemen. That means 31 teams with twelve forwards make 372 forwards playing, and six defensemen of thirty-one teams add up to 186 defensemen who play in a particular week.

Looking up the data for the 2018-2019 season, we find out that the average shift length of 558 NHL players is 47.07 seconds.

What is the Shift Length for Forwards?

Forwards have their shift length lower than this average. The shift length for forwards is 46.06 seconds. Want to know why?

The forwards play in four prominent lines: the 1st line, 2nd line, 3rd line, and 4th line. The coaches arrange the players in the lines according to their performance. The first line will have the best performers, the second line with players whose performances rank lower than the first and so on.

If we classify these 372 forwards into four groups and include 93 players in each group, and check their average shift lengths, the results are as follows:

All Forwards46.06 sec
Top 25%51.19 sec
Next 25%46.96 sec
Next 25%44.52 sec
Lowest 25%41.59 sec

There is an essential finding according to the table. You see, there is a difference of about 10 seconds between the top and the lowest categories of players. Why so?

Two important factors are the reason for this;

  • The first cause is a natural capability. The top players are naturally more capable and have practiced and played more games, so they tend to play for a greater period with increased stamina.
  • The second apparent cause is the power play. The top players on the power plays have increased their average shift length since it is two minutes longer.

Top 5 Forwards Average Shift Lengths

Alex Ovechkin1:00
Patrick Kane0:57
Evgeny Kuznetsov0:57
Nikita Kucherov0:56
Max Pacioretty0:55
Table of Top 5 Forwards Average Shift Lengths

These top five players have been on the power plays, increasing their average shift lengths. So, even though the forwards have their average shift lengths of 46 seconds, there are players with greater shift lengths.

How Long are Shifts for Defensemen?

To check the average shift lengths for the defensemen, we divide them into three categories, each bearing 62 players because defensemen play in three pairs. The data shows the following results:

All Defensemen48.60
Top 1/352.60
Middle 1/348.21
Last 1/345.00
Table of Shifts for Defensemen

The defensemen have to skate less than the forwards, so their shifts are understandably longer than the top forwards.

The difference between the top and bottom groups of defensemen shifts is about 7.6 seconds. The reasons for this difference are the same as the forwards; more stamina, discipline and control and playing the power plays.

Top 5 Defensemen’s Average Shift Lengths

Dustin Byfuglien1:02
Ryan Suter0:59
John Carlson0:59
Jacob Trouba0:56
Erik Karlsson0:56
Table of Top 5 Defensemen’s Average Shift Lengths

How do Special Teams Affect Shift Length Time?

When there is a power play, the players have to spend more time on the ice than in the usual game, which increases the shift length. A player may have to play for about 70-80 seconds on the ice during this time.

The player playing the penalty will play a shorter period than this and try not to exceed the tie for more than 30 seconds. The older and the experienced players may play for longer than the average 47 seconds, but the average for the newbies is 47 seconds.

And lastly, you might be amazed to know the average shift length if you are new to ice hockey. Forty-seven seconds seem less in theory but aren’t actually for those who are on the ice. Only those playing know the focus and the extreme effort they are putting in, and 47 seconds mean a lot for them. So, the players need some time to breathe and come back refreshed to the game.

Do you know what life lesson that teaches? It’s easier to judge, especially when you haven’t put yourself in another person’s shoes. Let’s learn from hockey to not jump to conclusions so quickly.

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