Menu Close

How Long Do Hockey Games Last? (on TV)

length of hockey game

Whether you are attending a game or watching it on TV, know that every hockey league has a targeted finish time they’d like to uphold.

Although period lengths are fixed, the game is played with stop time along with scheduled intermissions between periods.

Furthermore, an overtime period and shootout may be required to settle tie games.

So, there will always be a discrepancy between clock time and length of the game in real time.

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.

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. However, there are exceptions, which I explain below.

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?

Embed from Getty Images

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. 

For starters, should the third period end in a tie, the game is heading to overtime and possibly a shootout to follow.

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 in between plays, the longer the game will last.

Keep in mind that there are 18-minute intermissions following the first and second periods.

Meanwhile, playoff games are an entirely different conversation.

Games can extend to sudden death overtime, in which play doesn't end until either team breaks the deadlock.

Sometimes this requires more than one overtime period. And the game length stretches beyond the norm.

In addition, each intermission beyond the third period are 15 minutes in length.

For more info on the game structure, make sure to check out the NHL Rulebook

Embed from Getty Images

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).

Sometimes it's the pre-game ceremony that delay the conclusion of the game. A 7pm start can drag on up to three hours in the regular season.

Below, I included a table estimating when the game will finish based on various start times.

Table: If a Game Starts at ­­­­_pm what time will it end?

Start TimeEnd Time

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 NameGame Length*Intermissions
American Hockey League
60 minutes15-18 minutes
Kontinental Hockey League
60 minutes17 minutes
National League
60 minutes15 minutes
East Coast Hockey League
60 minutes18 minutes
Swedish Hockey League
60 minutes18 minutes
Quebec Major Junior Hockey League
60 minutes18 minutes
Ontario Hockey League
60 minutes15 minutes (1st Int)
18 minutes (2nd Int)
Western Hockey League
60 minutes18 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. 

Running Time

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 with less than 2 minutes or so 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 period (especially the 3rd period). 

Stop Time

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.

Embed from Getty Images

Final Thoughts

The amount of time you need to reserve for a hockey game depends on whether you plan to attend the event or watch it on television.

If you plan to attend in person, consider the commute from your current location (i.e. home, work) to the venue.

There is typically a bottleneck at the venue entrance, where everyone gets their tickets scanned.

The walk from the entrance to your seat can add another 5 minutes.

Did you consider refreshments along the way? You might be hungry since the game falls right around supper time.

But don’t stress if you arrive past the marked time on the tickets.

First off, the doors are open past the first period, maybe even the second.

Moreover, puck drop starts a little past the ticket time.

The delay is about 7-10 minutes long to allow for the team introduction, lineup and the anthem(s).  

And as we’ve already discussed, the average nhl game length is two and a half hours, give or take 15 minutes.

When planning to watch the game on TV, you can wait to flip the channel on after 7-10 minutes past the scheduled start time.

While the TV station puts together an introduction prior to puck drop, you can always skip it if you want.