The Length of a Professional Hockey Game
Although hockey features rules concerning how long each hockey game runs, certain things can happen that will extend the game significantly. Overtime, injuries, timeouts and the fact that the clock stops on every whistle cause games to last much longer than their 60-minute time limits.
The NHL has rules that limit these game time stoppages, however, most games still finish within a desirable period of time.
How Long is a Hockey Game?
Each professional hockey game features 60 minutes of playing time from the first opening puck drop, broken down into three 20-minute periods of actual game play. The league also mandates a 17-minute intermission after the first and second periods to zamboni the ice and provide the players with a rest period.
The arenas of NHL teams must have a score clock to keep spectators and players informed about these time frames, which is pretty much already the standard of all professional leagues, NCAA college hockey games, high school league games, and recreational hockey leagues as well.
Average Game Length of NHL Hockey Games
The NHL attempts to keep games to a reasonable length, as most fans do not want to sit in the stands for an excessive amount of time. During the 2003-2004 season, the average NHL game lasted two hours and 19 minutes, which remains significantly lower than the two hours and 36 minutes that NHL games averaged in 1986-1987.
Overtime and Shootout
In regular season games, if the score is tied at the end of the 60 minutes of regulation time, the teams will play an additional five minute overtime period. If neither team scores during this additional time, the teams will take part in a three-player shootout.
No time limits exist during the shootout, as it will continue until one team wins. The longest shootout in NHL history occurred in 2005 when the Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers took 15 rounds to decide a winner.
Commercial Breaks and TV Timeouts
Television commercial breaks remain a part of every NHL ice hockey game, although they do feature regulations. The National Hockey League Commercial Coordinator handles all of these commercial breaks and fits them into the running time of a game when needed. No commercial breaks can occur after a goal or after an icing infraction.
During the playoffs, games can expand considerably because they do not settle these games with a shootout, even if they are tied at the end of regulation and the end of the first period of extra time.
Sudden-death overtime periods in the Stanley Cup Playoffs uses 20-minute periods, ending when one team scores a goal. Each intermission during the NHL playoffs lasts an additional 15 minutes, beginning with the first intermission between the end of the third period and the first period of overtime.
The longest overtime in NHL history occurred in 1936 when the Detroit Red Wings defeated the Montreal Maroons 1-0 after 116 minutes and 30 seconds of overtime.
Jeremi Davidson began freelance writing in 2005. Davidson enjoys writing about sports and personal fitness, contributing to a number of different health and lifestyle websites. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Thompson Rivers University.