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How Long Do Hockey Games Last? (on TV)

hockey-game

How long does an ice hockey game last?

The standard length of an NHL hockey game is 60 minutes, or 3 periods of 20 minutes. If the score is tied after sixty minutes, the game will extend to a 5-minute overtime followed by a shootout. During the playoffs, teams will play sudden-death overtime to settle a tie which is also made up of 20-minute periods.

Did NHL hockey games always last 60 minutes?

NHL games have always lasted 60 minutes, but there are notable differences compared to today’s standards. Prior to the 1910-11 season, games would be played with 2 x 30 minute periods without stop-time [source]

The NHL only introduced stop-time as of the 1927-28 season, along with 10- minute intermissions. By the 1966-67 season, the intermission lengths were increased by an additional 5 minutes to fifteen minutes total. Today, the intermissions are standardized at 18 minutes long (there are exceptions – read below). [source]

If you want to know how both NHL teams and the league take advantage of intermissions, make sure to check out my blog here on How Long are NHL Intermissions?

How long do hockey games last in real time?

From the moment of puck drop until the end of the game, you are looking at approximately 2.5 hours of game time. Some games may last longer (or shorter) depending on various circumstances mentioned below. 

Keep in mind that in between both the first and second period, there is an intermission of 17 minutes from play for nationally televised games. Otherwise, play can be resumed after a minimum of 15 minutes and 30 seconds (i.e. overtime intermissions) based on NHL rules (source).

Furthermore, the game clock will stop between plays resulting from goals, penalty calls, icing, puck-out-of-play, broken glass and more. The more stops between plays, the longer the game will last.

Finally, if extra time is required (i.e. overtime or shootout), the likelihood of the game lasting beyond 2.5 hours is far greater.

If a hockey game starts at 7 what time will it end?

A hockey game that starts at 7pm will end at 9:30pm. Expect the game to last much later especially if there is overtime, shootout or due to on-ice delays (injuries, broken glass, surface problems). 

Furthermore, a pre-game ceremony will extend the end time significantly.

You can be watching the game as far late as 10pm if things drag on.

How long do hockey games last for other professional leagues?

When it comes to international, national and junior leagues, they all follow the same standard 60 minutes as the NHL (3 x 20-minute periods). See the list of the most popular leagues below that follow suit:


League Name
Game Length*
Intermissions

1

American Hockey League

(AHL)

60 minutes

15-18 minutes

2

Kontinental Hockey League

(KHL)

60 minutes

17 minutes

3

National League

(Swiss)

60 minutes

15 minutes

4

East Coast Hockey League

(ECHL)

60 minutes

18 minutes

5

Swedish Hockey League

(SHL)

60 minutes

18 minutes

6

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

(QMJHL)

60 minutes

18 minutes

7

Ontario Hockey League

(OHL)

60 minutes

15 minutes (1st Int)

18 minutes (2nd Int)

8

Western Hockey League

(WHL)

60 minutes

18 minutes

*Regulation Time Length (does not include overtime, shootout or playoff overtime rules)

How long do recreational ice hockey games last?

Recreational hockey leagues will typically reserve time blocks of up to 1 hour and 30 minutes per game. Every league decides on how much time to allocate for each period.

Should the league choose to play with running time, the periods will last around 20 minutes each. To prevent teams from running the clock through delay tactics, the league will often impose a stop-time within the last 1-2 minutes of each period. 

If given the chance, the opposing teams will run the clock between whistles to protect a lead or kill off a penalty – hence the imposed stop time at the conclusion of each periods (especially the 3rd period).

For leagues that use full game stop-time, the periods will run 3 periods of about 15-minutes each (I’ve personally seen an intramural league run 12-minute stop-time periods).


Take note that recreational games start with a 5-10 minute player warm-up while the last ten minutes are reserved for cleanup with the Zamboni.

You’ll also often see the referees and scorekeepers adjust the length of the 3rd period clock based on how much actual minutes remain in the time block. The idea is to allow the game clock to run to 0:00 on the scoreboard rather than stop the game with leftover time.

While professional leagues no longer end in tie games, this rule does not apply for recreational leagues. This is because amateur leagues cannot exceed the time blocks reserved for each of their games.

There have been times where leagues flirted with the shootout, due to the popularity of its implementation in the 2005-06 NHL rules, but this was short-lived. Again, teams would prefer tie games and longer play time to settling for tiebreakers by means of a shootout.

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