How Long Are Hockey Games? (Professional, College, Youth)


College hockey players battle near the net for the puck.

There is nothing like the feeling of getting to your seat at a hockey game and the teams are announced. The experience seems to go by in the blink of an eye and suddenly it is the third period, and your team is closing in on the win. This leads you to ask yourself the ultimate question.

How Long Are Hockey Games?

Regulation hockey games are 60 minutes long, divided into three 20-minute periods. The actual real-time game length is around two to two and half hours due to penalties, intermissions, commercial breaks if the game is televised, and overtime if needed.

This is a straightforward answer but many different aspects can lengthen a game. Let’s investigate the other factors that affect how long hockey games go for and how long games at the lower levels last.

How Long Are Hockey Games?

Hockey is fast-paced and has its fair share of penalties. In nearly all hockey leagues, there are three 20-minute periods, usually with two 15-minute intermissions.

While penalties such as offsides and icing are used to limit full ice passes, they are also intended to keep the game moving. Offense and defensive plays are made on the fly. Timeouts are not allowed to be called in the middle of the game; Teams must call timeouts during stoppages, and teams are limited to one per game.

If the game is tied at the end of regulation, it will go into overtime. In the NHL regular season, overtime is five minutes long. If the game is still tied after that five minutes, the game goes into a shootout, where each team receives three shots. Because overtime periods use sudden death rules, this can add anywhere from 10 seconds to 30 minutes to a game.

Most leagues function under the same time rules, but there are some variations between leagues. Below is a table of each league, their regulation time, and how long the game lasts.

LeagueRegulation Game TimeIntermissionsTotal Game TimeGame Length in Real Time
NHL60 minutes17 minutes94 minutes150 minutes
AHL60 minutes15-18 minutes94 minutes150 minutes
ECHL60 minutes18 minutes96 minutes150 minutes
KHL60 minutes17 minutes94 minutes150 minutes
WHL60 minutes18 minutes96 minutes150 minutes
OHL60 minutes15 minutes 1st int. 18 minutes 2nd int.93 minutes130 minutes
National League (Switzerland)60 minutes15 minutes90 minutes120 minutes
SHL60 minutes18 minutes96 minutes150 minutes
QMJHL60 minutes18 minutes96 minutes150 minutes

How Long Are NHL Games?

The NHL is widely considered the top tier league in terms of the level of competition and popularity among fans. There is a reason that many leagues take their rules and regulations from this league.

The NHL has three 20-minute regulation periods with two 17-minute intermissions, letting teams rest and regroup between the first and second periods. If there were no stoppages, the game would last 94 minutes total.

However, many factors come into play, such as penalties, fights, commercial breaks, and overtime if the game is tied after 60 minutes. When all these factors are coupled with the regulation game clock, a regular-season NHL game usually lasts two to two and a half hours.

How Long Are Intermissions in the NHL?

Intermissions in the NHL last 17 minutes and occur at the end of the first and second periods. Hockey is a brutal sport, and because of that, even a few minutes on the ice can be highly taxing; the primary goal of these intermissions is to let players rest and refuel.

Intermissions also play a vital role in helping players talk strategy, repair their equipment such as broken skates, or retape their sticks. They also give the rink maintenance team a chance to repair any damage done to the ice.

What Is a Zamboni?

Zamboni is a brand name that refers to an ice resurfacer and cleaner machine.

The Zamboni’s job is to smooth the ice over by first scraping up the ice and collecting the machine’s shavings. It will then wash the ice with water before using a towel to apply warm water over the rink to make it extra smooth.

How Long Are College Hockey Games?

Much like the NHL, college hockey games are highly competitive and run about the same amount of time, with games usually clocking in at about two hours and 25 minutes on average. College hockey games have three 20-minute periods but handle overtime differently than the NHL.

In most cases, if the score is tied at the end of regulation, the game will end in a tie. However, if the game is played in the NCAA tournament, the tournament officials can let the game go into overtime.

How Long Are High School Hockey Games?

High school hockey is hard to judge in terms of length since there are so many different high schools and counties that employ similar but different rules. However, one of the most prominent and most notorious high school leagues comes out of Minnesota and is known as the Minnesota state high school league (MSHSL).

According to the official 2020-2021 MSHSL boys and girls hockey rules, teams will play each game in three periods consisting of 17-minutes each. If the game is tied at the end of regulation, there will be a three-minute rest intermission followed by an eight-minute sudden-death overtime period.

How Long Are Youth Hockey Games?

According to the official USA hockey annual guide, a youth hockey game should last about an hour and 20 minutes. While the official junior rule book of USA hockey states that youth hockey games can have periods lasting up to 20 minutes, they generally give kids a little less time on the ice for obvious reasons.

Below is a table of the USAH 2020-2021 youth age classifications, playtimes, and level tiers (AAA being the highest level of competition, B being the lowest).

Age GroupPeriod LengthOvertime LengthClassificationTier Level
8 & UnderDiscretion of DistrictDiscretion of DistrictMiteAA,A,B
10 & UnderDiscretion of DistrictDiscretion of DistrictSquirtAAA,AA,A,B
12 & Under15 Minutes10 MinutesPee WeeAAA,AA,A,B
14 & Under16 Minutes10 MinutesBantamAAA,AA,A,B
16 & Under17 Minutes10 MinutesMinor MidgetAAA,AA, JV Highschool-A
18 & Under17 Minutes10 MinutesMajor MidgetAAA,AA, Varsity Highschool- AA,AAA

There are many youth hockey leagues across the country, so the period lengths vary. Some districts will use a running time/clock where the game doesn’t stop unless the referee says otherwise.

How Long Are Adult League Hockey Games?

Adult hockey leagues, much like high school leagues, tend to play by the rules that adhere to a specific area. However, they still are relatively consistent with not going longer than 60 minutes of regulation time. Ultimately, they run a little shorter than the NHL, averaging an hour and a half to two hours.

For example, the Lakewood adult hockey league in Colorado rulebook states that each game will adhere to three 14-minute periods. If regulation ends in a tie, there will be no overtime sudden-death period. The game will go straight to a three-person shootout.

When Does the Game Clock Stop in Hockey?

There are several reasons why a referee would want to stop a hockey game which includes but is not limited to:

  • A penalty occurs such as icing, high sticking, and offsides, among others.
  • A player is injured (hockey is not for the faint of heart).
  • A player scores a goal.
  • If the goalie captures the puck and holds it for more than three seconds.
  • If the puck leaves the playing field.

How Long Is Overtime in Hockey?

The length of overtime varies between leagues and age groups, and whether the game is a regular-season game or a playoff game.

In a regular-season NHL game, game overtime begins with a five-minute sudden-death period in a 4-on-4 format. The game ends when a team scores. If it is a playoff game such as the Stanley Cup Finals, the game will essentially be extended with an overtime period of 20 minutes applying the same sudden death rules. The teams will then play 20-minute periods until one of them scores the winning goal.

Some youth and adult leagues will keep the playoff model where the game is extended until someone scores, while others will do away with the sudden death period and go straight to a shootout.

Overtime length is hard to judge because of the sudden death policy so that the length can vary from a few seconds to an hour or more. In recent history, the most prolonged overtime was recorded May 4, 2000, between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins, which lasted 92 minutes.

How Long Are Shootouts in Hockey?

Hockey shootouts are a simple concept; if the game is still tied at the end of the sudden death overtime period, each team gets three chances to score an uncontested shot against the opposing goalie. If the score is still tied after each team takes three shots, the shootout goes to sudden death.

Because a shootout can go into sudden death, the length of it can vary. It takes about five minutes for each team to take each of their three shots, but the sudden death rounds can last quite a while. For instance, in the 2014 Olympic games between Russia and the United States, the shootout went for 10 minutes, with team USA winning on the 8th shot.

On Dec. 16, 2014, the longest shootout occurred, which involved the Washington Capitals and the Florida Panthers. The shootout lasted 20 rounds!

Factors that Affect the Length of Hockey Games

Many things come into play when referring to the factors affecting game time. These include:

  • Each period’s regulation length is 20 minutes which is the main factor that affects how long the game will last.
  • Intermissions in the NHL last 15 minutes to let players rest and recover; period length, intermissions, and overtime are the most significant contributing factors to the length of a game.
  • Overtime is the biggest wildcard when it comes to the length of a game because if it goes past the five-minute overtime period, a shootout can unpredictably influence the game’s length.
  • Player injuries happen all the time in hockey, so injury timeouts are not uncommon.
  • Penalties are among the few reasons the game will stop and restart, but this does not affect the game clock, only the actual time length of each game.
  • Fights are one of the most exciting parts of a hockey game and extend the length of games.
  • If a game is televised, it will have various breaks to air TV ads.

FAQ

How Long Are AHL Games?

The AHL plays 60 minutes of regulation, broken up into three 20-minute periods. The AHL also enacts 15-18 minute intermission breaks between periods. If there are no penalties, no overtime, and no commercial breaks, these games last around an hour and a half. Realistically, the games last two and a half hours because of penalties/ commercial breaks.

How Long Are ECHL Games?

Like the AHL, East Coast Hockey League games have a regulation playing time of three 20-minute periods with 18-minute intermissions. These games generally last two hours unless they are televised with commercial breaks, which is uncommon.

How Long Are KHL Games?

Games in the Russian-based Kontinental Hockey League last between two and two and a half hours with 20-minute periods and 15-minute intermissions. The KHL is the premier league in Asia, so many of the games are televised, bringing them closer to the two and half-hour mark.

How Long Are WHL Games?

The Western Hockey League, like its eastern counterpart, consists of three 20-minute periods with 18-minute breaks. Because this league is considered a minor league, the games are not usually televised and as a result, tend to last two hours.

How Long Are OHL Games?

Ontario Hockey League games generally last around two hours. The league has more extended intermission periods of 18 minutes, but that does not have a profound effect on how long games last. The games are usually streamed on their OHL streaming service, so commercial ads are minimal and do not generally affect game run time.

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Steven G.

My name is Steven and I love everything sports! I created this website to share my passion with all of you. Enjoy!

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