Compared to other sports, hockey is a pretty fast-paced game.
Both teams skate along the ice, quickly passing the hockey puck between them to try and score a goal.
Because of how quickly the action takes place, it may feel like the game is shorter than other sports.
It may make you wonder just how long hockey games actually are.
Here’s what you need to know about hockey and how long the games last.
How Long Is A Hockey Game?
On average, hockey games tend to last around 2.5 hours to 3 hours.
Hockey games are only supposed to last for 90 minutes.
That’s because it features three periods of gameplay which are 20 minutes each.
Between each period is an intermission of 15 minutes.
The intermissions give the players time to rest and for networks to show ads.
There are a few reasons a hockey game lasts longer than 60 minutes.
Here are some of those reasons.
If hockey players were to keep playing without breaks, then the total game would be only 60 minutes.
However, hockey is an incredibly physical sport.
Hockey players have to quickly skate up and down the ice rink which requires a lot of leg power and stamina.
They also have to hit hockey pucks with sticks and fend off other players.
It often means players end up shoving each other into the ice rink walls.
They need rest to recuperate and keep playing, and the intermissions allow them to do that.
There’s also another reason that the NHL has 15-minute intermissions.
They need time to repave the ice.
Hockey does a lot of damage to the ice.
When the ice doesn’t have a smooth surface, it can be extremely difficult and even dangerous to skate on.
To prepare the ice for the next period, a Zamboni comes out and smooths and cleans the ice.
This ensures that players are able to play on a fresh surface.
This also ensures that one team doesn’t get an advantage over the other.
For example, if one team plays on fresh ice and manages to get quite a few points, then the other team will have a difficult time catching up in the second period.
The malformed ice and chunks of ice missing will impact their ability to score and play.
The Zamboni ensures that everyone gets a fair shot of playing no matter what period it is.
Intermissions are one of the big factors that adds time to an NHL game.
Just like the NFL and NBA, the NHL has a lot of ads played during the games.
Networks rely on live sports to earn them revenue.
The NHL is no different.
The problem with NHL games is that it isn’t as easy to find ideal spots to pull away and show ads.
That’s because the action is constant.
There are very few moments when the players have to reset themselves.
Instead, as soon as the puck hits the ice, the players are at it until the end of the period or when something stops the game.
Because of this, the network can’t leave the game so easily.
If they miss something, then their viewers are going to be angry.
They may even decide to forgo watching on their network entirely.
This then makes them lose out on money.
Because of this, networks tend to show most of their ads during the 15-minute intermissions.
Since they have several ads that they need to show, however, they’ll also fit them into the game while it’s going on.
This also adds time to the game since sometimes the game pauses for the ad break to finish.
Ads make NHL games last longer, especially when it’s a high-stakes game like the Stanley Cup.
3. Puck Leaves The Ice
There are only a handful of things that will make the game stop.
One of those things is when the puck leaves the ice.
When the game stops, it adds time to the overall game because it has to reset.
The game clock isn’t ticking, so the game isn’t technically making progress.
A puck can leave the ice when it’s hit out by a player.
It can also leave the ice when a goalie blocks a puck and it ends up flying over the glass and into the audience.
Because the puck is no longer on the ice, the game can’t progress since there isn’t anything to score goals with.
The teams have to reset and a new puck comes out on the ice.
It drops and the game resumes.
The amount of time it takes for the game to resume depends on a few factors.
For one, if the puck struck someone in the audience, then an injury might have occurred.
Sometimes the game won’t resume until the injured fan receives care.
Another reason is that they have to wait for the referee to get a new puck and come out onto the ice with it.
While new pucks are always within reach, there isn’t a lot of storage room in an ice rink.
It can take some time to get the puck and then take it to the center of the rink.
All these minutes add up and extend the game since the clock is no longer running.
Whenever the puck leaves the ice rink, you can expect the game to last a bit longer.
While audience members can become injured during an NHL game, it’s far more likely that a player is going to receive an injury.
Hockey is an extremely physical sport.
Players are always roughing each other up.
Whether it’s running into each other, tripping on each other, or slamming each other into the ice rink’s walls, they’re always hurting each other.
Ice skates are also dangerous.
If someone falls or trips, there’s a chance that they can hurt themselves or those around them with their sharp skates.
Ice skates are essentially sharp blades strapped to shoes.
While hockey players wear protective clothing, those blades are sharp and can slice through them to get to the skin.
Whenever an injury occurs, it adds time to the game clock.
That’s because the game pauses when an injury occurs.
It’s too dangerous for the game to continue if someone is bleeding on the ice or not moving.
The game pauses while medical professionals rush to the rink to check on the player.
It’s a bit more difficult to help a player off of an ice rink than it is on a field.
As such, it takes a bit more time to check on them and remove them, if necessary.
The game only resumes once the player is off the ice or deemed fit for play.
Because of the brutal nature of the game, several injuries might occur during a single game.
That’s more time added to the game clock and more time for the game overall to finish.
NHL games last longer due to injuries.
Another big part of hockey games is penalties.
While there are a lot of things that are acceptable in the game, the NHL does have some rules.
When players or coaches violate those rules, then penalties occur.
When a penalty occurs, the game clock stops.
Usually, a referee will go over what happened to ensure that a penalty did occur.
If so, then the punishment for the penalty occurs.
This sometimes means that a player gets to have a shootout with a goalie.
They’re given a specific number of hockey pucks that they can try to hit into the goal while the goalie tries to block them.
The game clock doesn’t run during this time because it occurs outside of the game, technically.
This also means that the hockey player shooting the pucks can take a bit of time to line themselves up and psych themselves up for the hit.
Some players may shoot quickly while others may be a bit more methodical.
The longer they take to complete the resolution for the penalty, the longer it takes to get back to the actual game.
The problem with penalties is that they can occur quite often.
While not every resolution results in the game clock pausing, many of them do.
Each time the game clock stops, more time gets added to it and the game lasts longer.
Penalties make hockey games last longer than 60 minutes.
Perhaps one of the most exciting parts of the NHL is fights.
Although fights aren’t the greatest thing in that they encourage violence, viewers and fans can’t help but enjoy them.
Fights have also decreased in their frequency over the years.
When the NHL first formed in 1917, fights were common but not too rampant.
They even put in a rule that called fighting “fisticuffs.”
It established that while fighting could occur, those involved would go to the penalty box and sit out for a certain number of minutes.
They could then rejoin the game after their penalty was over.
In the 1960s, fights started to become more common.
In 20% of NFL games, there was at least one fight.
That number blew up to 100% by the 1980s.
During that time, most viewers and fans could expect at least one fight in every game.
It practically became a hockey tradition.
A popular joke that originated in the ’70s stated that a hockey game broke out during a fight, implying that everyone expected to see a fight while watching a hockey game.
However, the NHL changed the rules again to try and curb how much fighting was occurring.
They put in a clause that stated that the one who started the fight would get an additional two minutes in the penalty box.
Fighters were also subject to fines.
That helped decrease the amount of fighting.
In the 2018–2019 season, only 17% of games had fights that broke out.
That said, fights do still occur, and when they do, the game clock stops.
That’s because most players stop playing and move away when the two fighters start to go at it.
Since no one is playing, the game clock stops until the altercation is resolved.
This usually involves the referees who skate over and try and break up the fight.
Sometimes they’re successful, and sometimes they’re not.
Occasionally, the fight ends up escalating and more people get involved.
Depending on how messy it gets, it can take some time to get everyone back under control and organized.
Only once the fighters are in the penalty box and everyone else gets organized does the game resume.
Depending on how many fights there are in the game or how long it takes to recover from a fight, a game could easily add quite a few minutes to its overall runtime.
Fights make NHL games longer.
Like many other sports, hockey has overtime if the teams reach a tie when the game ends.
If there’s a tie, a 5-minute overtime period gets added to the game.
Before the overtime begins, however, players can rest for the overtime.
They take another 15-minute break to rest and recover for the overtime period.
This also allows the network to cram in a few more ads before the game resumes.
Once the rest period is over, the team gets back on the rink and plays for another five minutes.
During this time, if one team scores more points than the other, then they’re declared the winners.
If both teams still have a tied score by the end of the five minutes, then they enter a shootout.
The shootout allows both teams to fire pucks at the goalie in an attempt to get in the goal and score points.
The team with the most points after the shootout is the winner.
The shootout is a relatively new rule.
Before it, the NHL allowed ties to occur.
However, they decided to implement the shootout to get rid of ties and have a clear winner and loser of the match.
Having a tie in the original game can clearly add some time to the game.
Even if the shootout isn’t included, fans and viewers are looking at another 20 minutes of gameplay.
Add more commercials into that and the game becomes even longer.
The shootout takes some time, too, so you could easily have another half-hour or 45 minutes more of the game to watch.
Whenever a game goes into overtime, it’s going to make the match last a lot longer than 60 minutes.
7. Goal Issues
A final reason hockey games can take longer than they should play is an issue with the goal.
The goal takes a lot of abuse during a standard game of hockey.
With hockey pucks flying at it at high velocities and players crashing into it, it’s no surprise that it might fall apart at some point in the game.
Most commonly, the net on the goal becomes loose.
When a hockey puck hits it hard, the net can come loose from its bindings and fly free.
This becomes a hazard to players who might skate over it and trip.
There’s also the chance that the goal might rip up from the ice and move.
This becomes a problem because it makes it difficult for the other team to score.
Whenever an issue with the goal appears, the game clock stops.
The referees skate over to the goal and put it back in place.
Depending on the damage done to the goal, it may take some time.
They might even need to bring an entirely new goal out to replace it.
While this takes place, time is ticking.
Fans are sitting in their seats and waiting for the game to resume.
Viewers are watching ads and wondering when the game will come back.
Once the goal is back in place, the game resumes.
An issue with the goal can easily add a few minutes to several minutes to the overall game time.
Depending on the ferocity of the team or the wear and tear of the goal, issues with the goal and its net can make NHL games last a while.
How Long Are NHL Games In The Playoffs?
Games in the playoffs last longer than other games.
The standard playoff NHL game lasts at least three hours.
That’s because they have longer overtime periods.
Shootouts don’t occur in the playoffs.
Instead, another 20-minute period gets added to the game.
This takes the place of the usual five-minute overtime period.
The players continue to play until one team breaks the tie.
This can make a playoff game last a long longer than a regular-season game.
Hockey games are a bit shorter than other types of sports due to the constant action on the rink.
However, certain situations can make it last longer.
The NHL playoffs are also longer than other games because they have extended overtime periods.