Hockey Jargon

Decoding the Duration: Exploring the Length of Ice Hockey Games

The Duration of an Ice Hockey GameIce hockey is an exhilarating sport that captivates fans around the world. The fast-paced nature of the game, combined with the skillful maneuvers of the players, keeps spectators on the edge of their seats.

However, one aspect that often raises questions is the duration of a hockey game. In this article, we will explore the various factors that contribute to the length of a game, from regulation time to overtime and shootouts.

We will also delve into the influences on game duration, such as stoppages, rule infractions, TV timeouts, and intermissions. By the end of this article, you will have a comprehensive understanding of the time commitments involved in enjoying a hockey game.

NHL Hockey Game:

NHL (National Hockey League) games are typically played in four 20-minute periods, totaling 60 minutes of regulation time. However, it is important to note that the actual playing time is not exactly 60 minutes due to various stoppages.

These stoppages occur for a number of reasons, such as when the puck goes out of play, when a penalty is called, or when a goal is scored. Regulation time is stopped during these instances, giving players time to regroup and strategize.

On average, the amount of stoppage time can vary between 50 to 60 minutes, depending on the flow of the game. Additionally, the referees have the authority to add extra time to the clock during stoppages to ensure that the game is fair and accurate.

Overtime and Shootout:

Sometimes, a hockey game doesn’t end after the regulation period. In regular-season NHL games, if the score remains tied at the end of the third period, a sudden-death 5-minute overtime period is played.

During this time, the teams have the opportunity to score a game-winning goal. If neither team scores during overtime, the game proceeds to a shootout.

A shootout is a thrilling spectacle that showcases the skill of individual players. Each team selects three players to take turns attempting to score against the opposing goaltender.

If, after three rounds, the score is still tied, the shootout continues in a sudden-death format until a winner is determined. Shootouts can last anywhere from a few minutes to several rounds, increasing the overall duration of the game.

Factors Affecting Game Duration:

While the rules of the game dictate the basic structure of an ice hockey game, there are several factors that can impact its duration. These factors include stoppages, rule infractions, TV timeouts, and intermissions.


Stoppages occur frequently during a hockey game and can significantly extend the game duration. These stoppages include penalties, faceoffs, and delayed offsides.

While necessary for the game to proceed correctly, stoppages can disrupt the flow of play, leading to longer game times. Rule Infractions:

When players commit rule infractions, such as high-sticking or tripping, play is stopped, and penalties are assessed.

These infractions result in the penalized player spending time in the penalty box, leading to further stoppages and potential power plays for the opposing team. Rule infractions can increase game time and alter the momentum of the match.

TV Timeouts:

Television networks often incorporate commercial breaks into hockey games, allowing for advertisements and revenue generation. These TV timeouts typically occur every 6 to 8 minutes of playing time and can add an additional 30 seconds to several minutes to the duration of the game.


Intermissions provide players an opportunity to rest and for the ice to be cleaned. Typically, the first intermission lasts around 17 minutes, while the second intermission is slightly shorter.

During these breaks, fans are entertained with games, contests, and performances, enhancing the overall experience of attending a hockey game. In conclusion, the duration of an ice hockey game can vary depending on various factors.

NHL hockey games consist of three periods of regulation play, totaling 60 minutes. However, stoppages and rule infractions can extend the actual playing time.

Additionally, overtime and shootouts are employed to determine a winner if the game remains tied after regulation. And, of course, TV timeouts and intermissions contribute to the overall duration of the game.

Despite these variables, the thrill and excitement of watching a hockey game remain constant, making it an unforgettable experience for fans worldwide.

Duration of Different Hockey Leagues

While the duration of an ice hockey game in the NHL has been discussed extensively in the previous sections, it is important to note that the duration can vary across different leagues. In this section, we will explore the duration of college hockey games and recreational and kids’ hockey games, shedding light on the variations and factors at play.

College Hockey Games:

College hockey offers an exciting blend of skill, determination, and youthful energy, attracting both die-hard fans and casual spectators alike. However, the duration of college hockey games differs from that of NHL games.

Instead of three 20-minute periods, college hockey games consist of three 20-minute periods, similar to the NHL, but with one crucial difference – overtime. In regular-season college hockey games, if the score is tied at the end of regulation, a 5-minute sudden-death overtime period is played.

However, unlike NHL games, which allow for shootouts, college hockey games can end in a tie after the overtime period. The absence of shootouts in college hockey eliminates the added time and potential drama of a shootout, making the games more concise.

Despite this difference, the overall game duration of college hockey is still comparable to that of NHL games due to similar stoppages, rule infractions, and intermissions. The time spent on stoppages and penalties, as well as the length of intermissions, remains consistent across leagues.

However, it is important to note that the overall production value and presentation of college hockey games may vary from the grandeur of NHL games, which often feature larger arenas and more elaborate in-game entertainment. Recreational and Kids’ Hockey Games:

Recreational and kids’ hockey games offer a unique experience focused on enjoyment, skill development, and fostering a love for the sport.

These games cater to various age groups, from young children just starting out to adults looking to participate for recreational purposes. The duration of recreational and kids’ hockey games is typically shorter compared to professional leagues like the NHL or college hockey.

One of the primary reasons for shorter game duration in recreational and kids’ hockey is the inclusion of stoppage time for teaching and coaching purposes. Coaches often use stoppages to provide on-the-spot instructions, emphasizing skills and strategies to the players.

These mini “timeouts” during the game allow for valuable teaching moments and help players learn and improve their understanding of the game. Additionally, in kids’ hockey, there might be certain modifications to the game structure to align with the age and skill level of the participants.

This can include rules such as smaller ice surfaces, reduced numbers of players on the ice, or adjusted play durations. Another factor that affects game duration in recreational and kids’ hockey is the length of intermissions.

While the intermissions in professional leagues like the NHL or college hockey are typically around 17 minutes, the intermissions in recreational and kids’ hockey tend to be shorter. These intermissions focus on minimal ice cleaning and are often limited to a few minutes to allow for quick rest and hydration before resuming play.

It is important to recognize that the primary objective of recreational and kids’ hockey games is not solely focused on game duration but also on engaging young players, nurturing their love for the sport, and promoting their development. By ensuring that the games are age-appropriate and provide ample opportunities for learning and improvement, coaches and organizers create an environment that fosters enthusiasm and growth in young players.

In conclusion, the duration of hockey games varies across different leagues and levels. College hockey games maintain a similar structure to the NHL but may end in a tie after overtime.

Recreational and kids’ hockey games, on the other hand, have shorter game durations, allowing for teaching moments during stoppages and age-appropriate modifications to the game. Despite these differences, the joy and passion for the sport remain constant, making each game a unique experience for players and spectators alike.

In conclusion, the duration of an ice hockey game can vary depending on the league and level of play. NHL games consist of regulation time, overtime, and shootouts, while college hockey games may end in a tie after overtime.

Recreational and kids’ hockey games have shorter durations to accommodate teaching moments and age-appropriate modifications. Despite these variations, the thrill and passion for the sport remain unchanged.

Understanding the factors impacting game duration enhances our appreciation for the complexities of hockey. Whether observing professional or grassroots hockey, the excitement and camaraderie experienced in these games leave an indelible mark on players and fans, fostering a love for the sport that extends far beyond the final buzzer.

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