NHL games consist of 60 minutes of playtime that breaks into three separate periods that take over two and a half hours to complete. The 20-minute periods have multiple pauses in the game clock due to stoppage in action. If the score between both teams is tied, both teams enter a five-minute overtime during the regular season. A shootout occurs to decide a winner if there is no winner after the five-minute overtime.
So, what causes a 60-minute game to take closer to 2.5 hours to complete? How long are NHL playoff games take to complete? How long do Minor League Hockey and college hockey games take to complete? What is the longest NHL game in history? Finally, has there ever been hockey games that got suspended before the game began?
Here is the complete breakdown of how long hockey games take to complete.
A Rough Hockey Breakdown on Why it Takes 2.5 Hours to Complete
- Total official game time: 60 minutes
- Intermissions for the Zamboni to clean the ice: 15 minutes (*2 breaks) = 30 minutes. Also, intermission can go up to 17-minute intermissions if the game is televised nationally.
- Stoppage Time: Around 40 minutes
- TV Commercials / TV Timeouts: Around 15 minutes
The breakdown above gives a rough idea as to why games take closer to 2.5 hours to complete.
A Deeper Dive into the 2.5 Hours to Complete a Hockey Game
Assuming no overtime occurs after 60 minutes of hockey play, games still take about 2.5 hours to complete. Intermissions will take 30 minutes to complete a game, leaving stoppage time and commercial breaks as the other two categories to make up the additional time to complete a game. Here is a further breakdown of stoppage time and commercial tv breaks in hockey.
Many factors cause the game’s official clock to stop for stoppage time. Stoppage time includes the puck going into the stands, timeouts, goalie net issues that need correcting, goalie trapping the puck, any problems with the ice, hockey fights, injuries, and the faceoff. Any goals during the periods will also stop the clock for celebration. The clock will only resume once the referee drops the puck for a faceoff.
TV commercials also occur during games, which adds to the time it takes to complete an ice hockey game. TV commercials also become longer in the playoffs since more people watch those games, which adds time to complete a game. Playoff games are nationally televised, meaning the intermission goes from 15 minutes to 17 minutes.
How Does Overtime Impact an NHL Hockey Game’s Length?
Overtime in hockey will result in the game taking longer to complete. During the regular season, there is one overtime period with five minutes of action via a 3-3 setup and goalie. Just like in a regular game, stoppage time will take longer than five minutes. The game moves into a shootout if there is no winner after the five-minute period.
Hockey overtime has different rules in the playoffs than in the regular season. In the regular season, there is only one five-minute overtime period; playoff hockey is 20 minutes.
How Long Do NHL Hockey Playoffs Take?
NHL hockey playoffs take longer to complete than a regular season game. For instance, during the Stanley Cup, the intermission period is twenty minutes instead of fifteen minutes, which adds ten more minutes to a regular three-period game. When you factor in that commercial breaks tend to be longer during the postseason than during the regular season, the time it takes to complete a playoff hockey game increase.
Why Does the Clock Stop in Hockey Games?
NHL games must be 60 minutes of official gameplay. However, the clock must stop when there is a stoppage in the game, like a goal or the puck going out of bounds. Other stoppage time can include fights, traps of the puck made by the goalie, and any issues on the rink.
Therefore, stoppage action during a game immediately stops the clock and only resumes on a new faceoff. Also, each team has a 60 second timeout per game that they can take, which also stops the clock.
How Long is a Minor League Hockey Game?
A minor league hockey game takes less than 2.5 hours to complete. Just like in the NHL, three periods of play result in 60 minutes of action. The intermission in minor league hockey tends to have more spectacle, like a performance, to keep the fans entertained.
However, since most minor league games don’t have a TV audience, there isn’t the need for commercial breaks, which helps speed up the game’s conclusion.
How Long is a College Hockey Game?
NCAA college hockey games are shorter than Minor League or National Hockey League games. Usually, the NCAA college hockey game usually takes between two hours and fifteen minutes and two and a half hours to complete. College hockey games take less time to complete because there aren’t TV commercials, usually.
What is the Longest NHL Game Ever?
The longest NHL game occurred in 1936 between the Detroit Red Wings and the Montreal Maroons. The hockey game began at 8:30 PM EST on a Tuesday and ended at 2:25 on a Wednesday morning. A total of 176 minutes and 30 seconds took the place of actual ice hockey game time between both teams.
Can Hockey Games End in a Tie?
During the 2005-2006 season, the NHL eliminated tie game opportunities via new overtime rules. That meant that before the 2005 season, fans might have invested hours into a match to see a tie ultimately. NHL teams continue into a shootout to decide a winner via what team scores with the rule change.
Can an NHL Game Be Delayed or Suspended?
During the Covid-19 season, there were games that were games that were postponed during the season. Since some of the players on the New Jersy Devils and Edmonton Oilers got sick, the league had to suspend games at a later time. You can check out the full article from Reuters to learn more about these suspended games.
Conclusion: How Long is a Hockey Game?
In summary, professional hockey games consist of three periods of 20 minutes of actual game action. When you factor in the 60 minutes of play, the time it takes to clean the ice, stoppage time, and TV breaks, the game’s length takes about 2.5 hours to complete. If a game goes into overtime, the game will take longer to complete. It will take longer to complete if it is a playoff game since TV commercial breaks are extended.
Understanding why stoppage time results in the clock stopping during hockey games is essential. Stoppage time means anytime the puck is no longer in play for either team to score on a net. Stoppage time can occur due to a fight, the puck going out of play, an injury, broken glass, and more that stop the play’s action.