How Long Are Hockey Games? The Ultimate Guide to Game Duration

Written by: Chris Hungerford



Time to read 8 min

Ever wondered how long a hockey game actually lasts? I know I have. As a die-hard fan, I've spent countless hours glued to the screen, watching the fast-paced action unfold. But have you ever stopped to think about the actual duration of a game? Well, buckle up, because we're about to dive into the nitty-gritty of hockey game lengths.

The truth is, the length of a hockey game can vary depending on a few factors. From regulation time to overtime, there's a lot that goes into determining the final whistle. So, whether you're a seasoned fan or just getting into the sport, understanding how long hockey games typically last can help you plan your viewing experience.

Table of Contents:

Understanding the Length of an NHL Hockey Game

Regulation Time

A typical NHL game is divided into three periods, each lasting 20 minutes. This means that the regulation time for an NHL game is 60 minutes. However, the actual game duration often extends beyond this due to various stoppages and breaks.

According to, a hockey game is divided into three periods, with each period lasting 20 minutes — called regulation time.

Overtime Rules

If the score is tied at the end of regulation time, the game goes into overtime. In the regular season, overtime is played in a sudden-death format, meaning the first team to score wins the game. The overtime period in the NHL is 5 minutes long and is played with fewer players on the ice, creating more open space and opportunities for scoring.

The NHL's regular-season overtime format stipulates a five-minute, sudden-death period. Overtime in a NHL game can add approximately 2.5 minutes to that length on average.

Period Length

Each period in an NHL game is 20 minutes long. However, the actual time it takes to play period is usually longer due to stoppages in play, such as penalties, goals, and TV timeouts. In my experience, a typical NHL period can last anywhere from 35 to 45 minutes in real-time. This means that even though the game clock shows 20 minutes, the actual time spent playing is often much longer.

The average length of a period in ice hockey is 20 minutes of gameplay. A regular game of Hockey consists of three 20-minute periods, with a 15-minute intermission after the first and second periods.

Commercial Breaks

Another factor that contributes to the length of an NHL game is commercial breaks. The NHL has designated commercial breaks that occur during stoppages in play, such as after goals, penalties, and at the end of each period. These commercial breaks can add significant time to the overall game duration. In fact, a typical NHL game can have up to 18 minutes of commercials, which is almost an entire period's worth of time.

Commercial breaks during NHL games and stoppages for penalties, or the puck landing in the stands, can add to this duration. The game clock pauses during these times.

How Long Are NHL Playoff Games?

While regular season NHL games have a set format and length, playoff games can be a different story altogether. The intensity and stakes are higher, and the games can often go on for much longer.

Sudden Death Overtime

In the playoffs, if a game is tied at the end of regulation, it goes into sudden death overtime. This means that the game will continue until one team scores, no matter how long it takes. I've seen playoff games go into double, triple, and even quadruple overtime. The longest game in NHL history was a playoff game in 1936 between the Detroit Red Wings and the Montreal Maroons, which lasted 176 minutes and 30 seconds of overtime.

Playoff hockey games are notably longer, with no maximum time limit and continue until one team scores.

Multiple Overtime Periods

Unlike regular season games, which have a 5-minute overtime period, playoff games have 20-minute overtime periods. If the score remains tied after one overtime period, the game goes into another 20-minute overtime period, and so on until a winner is determined. This means that playoff games can potentially go on for hours, testing the endurance and determination of the players and the patience of the fans.

NHL playoff games feature multiple 20 minute overtime periods, potentially significantly lengthening games. The longest NHL game lasted 217 minutes, or over 3.5 times the average length.

College and Recreational Hockey Game Lengths

While NHL games are the most well-known and widely watched, there are other levels of hockey with their own game lengths and formats.

College Hockey Game Duration

College hockey games are similar in length to NHL games, with three 20-minute periods. However, there are some differences in the overtime rules and the length of intermissions. In NCAA hockey, overtime is played in a sudden-death format, but the overtime period is 20 minutes long instead of 5 minutes like in the NHL. If the score remains tied after one overtime period, the game ends in a tie.

College level hockey games average around 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Recreational Hockey Game Length

Recreational hockey games, such as those played in adult leagues or youth leagues, can vary in length depending on the level of play and the specific league rules. In general, recreational hockey games are shorter than professional or college games. A typical adult league game may have three 15-minute periods, while a youth game may have three 12-minute periods.

High school games, shorter than professional ones, average around an hour and 30 minutes in length. Minor league hockey games, such as AHL games, average around 2 hours and 30 minutes as well.

Factors That Impact Hockey Game Duration

While the basic structure of a hockey game is set, there are several factors that can impact the overall duration of the game.

Penalties and Power Plays

Penalties are a common occurrence in hockey, and they can have a significant impact on the length of the game. When a player commits a penalty, they are sent to the penalty box for a set amount of time, usually 2 minutes for a minor penalty or 5 minutes for a major penalty. During this time, their team plays shorthanded, while the opposing team has a power play opportunity. If a goal is scored during a power play, the penalty time is ended early.

Factors affecting game duration include the level of play (amateur or professional), league-specific rules, and occurrences like penalties and injuries. Understanding these can give fans a deeper appreciation of the game.

Scoring Frequency

The frequency of scoring in a hockey game can also impact its duration. If there are a lot of goals scored, there will be more stoppages in play for celebrations and faceoffs, which can add time to the game. On the other hand, if the game is a low-scoring defensive battle, there may be fewer stoppages and the game may move along more quickly.

The average length of an NHL game may vary slightly depending on factors such as the game's intensity, number of goals scored, penalties, and additional periods required.

Timeouts and Stoppages

Finally, timeouts and other stoppages in play can also impact the length of a hockey game. Each team is allowed one 30-second timeout per game, which can be used strategically to rest players or draw up a play. There are also stoppages for things like injuries, broken glass, and other unexpected events. While these stoppages are necessary, they can add time to the overall game duration.

The average length of an NHL game is about 2 hours and 19 minutes. This statistic represents the typical duration of a game in terms of the total time it takes from start to finish, including any necessary breaks or periods of overtime. Each period in an NHL game lasts 20 minutes of playtime, but typically they extend to 35 to 40 minutes in real-time.

As a passionate hockey fan, I've seen my fair share of games that have gone on for what feels like forever. But I've also seen games that have flown by in the blink of an eye. The length of a hockey game can be unpredictable, but that's part of what makes the sport so exciting. Whether you're watching an NHL game, a college game, or a recreational league game, you can expect to be on the edge of your seat for at least a couple of hours. So grab some snacks, settle in, and enjoy the fast-paced action and intense competition that hockey has to offer.

Key Takeaway: 

Hockey games are a blast, lasting about 2 hours and 19 minutes on average, but they can stretch longer with overtime. From the NHL to recreational leagues, periods run for set times but actual play extends due to stoppages like penalties and TV timeouts. Playoff games amp up the excitement with sudden death overtimes that could last indefinitely until someone scores.

FAQs in Relation to How Long Are Hockey Games

How long does an NHL game usually last?

An NHL game typically wraps up in about 2.5 hours, including all the breaks and action.

How many hours is the hockey game?

Hockey games often stretch to around three hours, factoring in playtime plus any extra innings.

How many minutes is a full-length hockey game?

A complete hockey match clocks in at 60 minutes of regulation time, not counting stoppages or OT.

What is the duration of play in hockey?

The puck's on ice for a solid hour if you're tallying pure gameplay minus interruptions and intermissions.


So, there you have it - the lowdown on how long hockey games usually last. From the standard 60 minutes of regulation time to the nail-biting excitement of sudden death over time, a hockey game is a thrilling ride from start to finish.

But as we've seen, the actual duration can vary depending on factors like penalties, stoppages, and the intensity of the game itself. 

Whether you're watching a regular season matchup or a high-stakes playoff battle, one thing's for sure - hockey never fails to keep you on the edge of your seat.

So the next time someone asks you, 'How long are hockey games?' you'll be ready with the answer. And who knows, maybe you'll even impress them with your newfound knowledge of the sport's intricacies. Now that's what I call a win-win situation.

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