There are two different types of hockey: ice hockey and field hockey. The abbreviated term ‘hockey’ most often refers to ice hockey. If you are new to ice hockey, you have a lot to learn. But a good place to start is to find out how long hockey games are, if there are breaks, and the duration of these breaks.

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The average NHL hockey game lasts 2.5 to 3 hours. You can expect about the same time frame for minor league hockey and college games as well. For high school and youth hockey games that average games take an hour and fifteen minutes. This includes periods, intermissions and timeouts.

Here is a breakdown of each hockey level and how long you should except each game to take:

Skill LevelPeriodsAverage Time (Real-time)
NHL3 x 20 minutes2.5 hours – 3 hours
Minor League3 x 20 minutes2.5 hours – 3 hours
College3 x 20 minutes2.5 hours
High School3 x 15-17 minutes1 hour and 15 minutes – 2 hours
Youth3 x 12-20 minutes1 hour and 15 minutes

Hockey games are composed of three periods of play. Some hockey games use running clock times, while others apply stoppages whenever the puck is not in play. There are also intermissions, timeouts, and overtimes, which all affect an ice hockey game’s actual duration.

Hockey Game Overview

Periods: Hockey games have a maximum of 1-hour duration. This hour is broken up into three periods of play, separated by intermissions. The period duration depends on the hockey league or level. Some hockey levels use running clocks during the periods, stopping only for serious injuries, goals, etc. Other levels only run the clock while the puck is in active play.Intermission: Intermissions are breaks between regular time periods and, in some situations, between overtime periods. During intermission, the clock stops, and the players are given a rest break. The intermission also provides an opportunity to clean and repair the ice with a Zamboni. In the major and minor leagues, the intermissions additionally provide time for in-house entertainment.Timeouts: There are two types of timeouts in hockey; both can only be called when the puck is not in active play. There are the timeouts that the teams call, and there are TV timeouts for televised games. In the major and minor leagues, each team can call one 30-second time out. In college, high school, and youth hockey games, each team can call one 60-second time out, and sometimes they may call another 60-second timeout during overtime. TV timeouts are up to 2 minutes long, but there can only be three TV timeouts per period.Overtime: Most hockey games cannot end in a tie. If the third period ends in a tied score, the game will go into overtime. The number and duration of overtime periods differ according to the league, the level, and whether it is a playoff game. Normally, if the score is still tied at the end of overtime, the game will end in a shootout, where the team who scores the most goals out of three wins.

How Long NHL Games Take

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NHL stands for National Hockey League, and it is arguably the most famous ice hockey championship league. NHL games take an average of 2.5 to 3 hours.

The real-time for an NHL game includes three 20-minute periods of play and two 17-minute intermissions. The clock is stopped whenever the puck is not in active play. Stoppages are goals, injuries, fighting, penalties, off-side, icing, puck being out of the rink, etc., and they all extend the actual game time.

Each team can call one 30-second timeout during the game, and there are up to three 2-minute TV timeouts per period.

Additionally, if the score is tied at the end of the game, it will go into overtime. There are 2 minutes of rest before overtime begins, and overtime lasts 5 minutes. If the overtime period does not break the tie, there will be another 2-minute break, and then the game will go into a shootout.

A shootout is between 3 players of each team, and the team with the most goals out of 3 wins the shootout. Depending on the number of shootouts required to break the tie, this can also extend the game’s duration.

During playoffs, there are different rules for overtime. If a playoff game ends in a tie, there will be a 15-minute intermission followed by a 20-minute overtime period. If the tie is still unbroken, the game will proceed with 15-minute intermissions and 20-minute periods of play until someone scores.

How Long Minor League Hockey Games Take

Most of the higher-level minor league hockey games are played in the same way as NHL games: three 20-minute periods separated by two 17-minute intermissions and stopping the clock whenever the puck is not in active play. However, there can be small differences in the overtimes and shootouts, depending on the league. For example, the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) follows the NHL’s same times except that it has a 7-minute overtime period.

Despite these small differences, the average game time is still 2.5 to 3 hours.

How Long College Hockey Games Take

College hockey games are also played in the same way as NHL games: three 20-minute periods separated by two 17-minute intermissions and stopping the clock whenever the puck is not in active play. These are on the shorter side, so closer to 2.5 hours than 3 hours because there is less happening in terms of TV timeouts and in-house entertainment at a college hockey game.

Another difference in college hockey games is that each team gets one 1-minute timeout, and a second timeout is added if the game goes into overtime.

How Long High School Hockey Games Take

There can be slight differences in high school hockey game times depending on the state, but on average, the real-time game time is 1 hour and 15 minutes to 2 hours long. High school hockey games consist of three 15 to 17-minute periods. These periods are separated by 12 to 15-minute intermissions.

If the game is tied when the clock runs out, there is a 3-minute rest before the game goes into a 7.5 to 8-minute overtime. There are 1-4 rounds of overtime, and if neither team scores during overtime, they move into a shootout.

Typically, the clock is stopped when the puck is not in active play. However, after two periods or during the third period, if one team is leading by six or more goals, they shorten the play by switching to a running time.

How Long Youth Hockey Games Take

The players’ age in youth hockey games varies greatly and so causes variations in total game time, although the average game time is 1 hour and 15 minutes. They play with a running clock, only stopping for serious injury, penalties, the puck being out-of-play, and other reasons as approved by the referee.

Youth hockey leagues typically have 12-minute intermissions, but the length of the periods varies with the players’ ages. Some teams play three 12-minute periods, others play two 15-minute periods followed by one 20-minute period, and still others play one 15-minute period followed by two 20-minute periods.

Youth hockey games have a 5-minute overtime period if the game ends in a tie, followed by a three-per-side shootout if the score is still tied after overtime.

How Many Intermissions Are in Hockey?

There are typically two intermissions in hockey. One between the first and second period. Another between the second and third period.

In playoff games, there are additional intermissions between the overtime periods.

How Long Are Hockey Intermissions?

NHL intermissions are 15.5 minutes unless the game is nationally televised. If the game is nationally televised, the intermissions are extended to 17 minutes to account for TV timeouts. During playoffs, additional intermissions of 15-minutes separate the third period and overtime and subsequent overtime periods.

Minor league and college hockey games also have 15.5 to 17-minute intermissions. High school intermissions are 12 to 15 minutes long, and youth league intermissions are 12 minutes long.

Warnings are given 5 minutes, 2 minutes, and 1 minute before the game recommences to ensure that play is resumed promptly.

What’s the Longest Hockey Game Ever Played?

The longest hockey game ever recorded was in 1936 between the Detroit Redwings and the Montreal Maroons. They played almost six full overtime periods. After 16.5 minutes in the sixth overtime period, a rookie named Mud Bruneteau scored the first and winning goal of the game for the Redwings. The game ended 1-0 at 2:25 am with a total overtime of 116.5 minutes of overtime.

Final Thoughts

All ice hockey games are of a maximum 1-hour duration. Whether this hour consists only of active puck play or also includes stoppages depends on the skill level. Regardless of the level, hockey games are divided into three periods separated by two intervals. The level determines the length of these periods and intermissions.

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NHL, minor leagues, and college hockey have 20-minute periods and 15.5 to 17-minute intermissions. High school hockey games are divided into 15 to 17-minute periods and 12-minute intermissions. Youth hockey games have 12 to 20-minute periods and 12-minute intermissions.

Overtime is 5 minutes long for NHL, minor league, and college hockey except during the playoffs. During the playoffs, there are further 20-minute overtime periods with 15-minute intermissions between each. Overtime continues until there is a tie-break. As such, playoff games have the potential to be excessively long. The longest recorded hockey game, played in 1936, was won by the Detroit Redwings against the Montreal Maroons after 116.5 minutes of overtime. So, if you are going to a playoff game, clear your diary!