When comparing sports and their game lengths, there are many differences between them. For example, the length of baseball games has long been thought of as too long, so today, let’s review hockey, its length, and much more.
Hockey games last 60 minutes with three 20-minute periods. If the game ends in a tie, it goes to five-minute overtime, where the first team to score wins. If a goal isn’t scored during overtime, the game is settled with a shootout, where three players from each team alternate penalty shots.
If the shootouts end in a tie which is very rare, sudden death will be taken to play, meaning the team that scores first will win.
Most hockey games end within three 20-minute periods or a total time of 60 minutes. In season 2019-2020, 23.1% of all games went to overtime therefrom 7.95% went to shootouts.
This is very similar to other seasons, where the overtime percentage hovers between 23% and 25%. In my opinion, that’s a surprisingly high number, considering that the teams have 60 minutes of playtime to score as many goals as possible.
However, less than 10% will go to shootouts from that five-minute overtime period, which is played 3v3 instead of 5v5. That reduced player amount on overtime is a big factor in why a goal is usually scored within the five-minute overtime.
Now, even when most hockey games last 60 minutes when looking at the clock, it isn’t so in reality, but much longer. Let’s take a closer look at the subject.
How Long Do Hockey Games Last In Reality?
So hockey games are 60 minutes of playtime, in addition to potential overtime or shootout. However, the game stops, period breaks, commercials, and effects may affect the real length of hockey games. So, how long are they in reality?
Hockey games last 60 minutes during three 20-minute periods in-game time. However, the game length, in reality, is 2.5 to 3 hours.
So, that’s 2.5x to 3x of the stated length or 150 to 180 minutes.
The 2.5 to 3 hours hockey game length is in both TV and live because the same game stops, intermissions, and other lengthening events apply for both.
The length of 60 minutes is the time the puck is at play, and the game is played. The clock is topped during various events that I’ll explain next.
Why Do Hockey Games Last Longer Than 60 Minutes?
Generally, four main events will stop the clock in hockey to make the 60-minute game time longer in reality. These are; game stops, period breaks, commercials, and potential overtime.
1. Game Stops
Game stops are the most common event to stop the clock in hockey. This includes penalties, offsides, puck sent out of play, injuries, fights, someone scoring a goal, and more. Naturally, when these things happen, the puck isn’t at play anymore or can’t be because someone broke the rules, so the clock is stopped.
After the game stops, the puck is dropped on the ice by a referee in a faceoff, and the clock will start when the puck hits the ice. The clock will go on as long as another game stop comes when it’s paused once again.
2. Period Breaks
As I mentioned, ice hockey is divided into three 20-minute periods. There are many reasons for it, but most importantly, the players need rest, and the ice needs to be resurfaced as 20-minutes of hockey will get it into a bad shape.
During intermissions from first to the second period and from second to third, the players will rest in their locker room, a Zamboni driver will resurface the ice, and the fans can stretch their legs, get refreshments, and go to the bathroom.
Each intermission is 15 minutes and 30 seconds long (15:30) or 17 minutes (17:00) for nationally televised games.
Commercials deserve a section in this list because they are a big deal in today’s hockey and sports.
During intermissions, commercials are shown to people on television, which also increases the total time of hockey games.
According to Mediaradar.com, advertisers spent over $3 billion buying TV ads during playoff games in the NHL, NBA, NFL, and MLB. From that $3 billion, only 4% went to NHL advertising; however, the sum is still substantial; $120 million.
The $120 million in TV ads spent was only during the playoff games, so the actual amount is far more when considering all NHL games from the start.
4. Potential Overtime
The fourth reason hockey games can last longer than stated is overtime, shootouts, and sudden death. As revealed, 23-25% of all NHL games will go to overtime therefrom, around 8% will go to shootouts where three players from each team are selected to shoot penalty shots.
If the game goes to overtime, there will be another 15-17 minute intermission between the third and overtime period, giving time for the players to rest, ice resurfacing, and additional ads shown.
If the game isn’t solved in overtime, it will go to shootouts, and there will also be an intermission there, further increasing the game length.
The only exception is the Stanley Cup playoffs, where overtime is 20 minutes with 5 skaters instead of 5-minutes and 3 skaters. Also, there is no possibility of a shootout, and the overtime remains sudden death.
Do Hockey Games Last The Same In All Levels?
National Hockey League is the highest level of hockey one can play; however, it certainly isn’t the only one. Youth, high school, collegiate, and professional ice hockey exist with great differences. However, are they different in terms of game time?
Generally, hockey games are 60minutes long with three 20-minute periods in all levels of play, from youth hockey to major professional ice hockey.
However, I remember when I was in hockey school at 10-11 of age, our periods were 15 minutes long with a total game time of 45 minutes. So, in unofficial games such as very young hockey players, the coaches and staff may reduce the game time considering the young age of players and their physical capabilities.
Other than that, hockey games are always 60-minutes long. To give you an idea of different levels of play, check out the table below.
|Level Of Play||Hockey Game Time|
|Youth Ice Hockey||60 minutes|
|High School Ice Hockey||60 minutes|
|College Ice Hockey||60 minutes|
|Minor Professional Ice Hockey||60 minutes|
|Major Professional Ice Hockey||60 minutes|
What Is the Longest Hockey Game In History?
So, hockey games last 60 minutes in-game time and 150 to 180 minutes in reality. This raises the question, what is the longest hockey game ever recorded?
The longest hockey game ever recorded is 217 minutes and 14 seconds of actual game time. In reality, the game lasted eight and half hours with eight overtime. The game was played in Norway in a playoff game between Storhamar Dragons and Sparta Warriors in 2017.
Storhamar Dragons won this unbelievable game.
Now, hockey is a big picture to look at, and that’s why such a long game was found. Let’s narrow our sight to the National Hockey League (NHL) and see what’s the longest game there?
The longest NHL game lasted 176 minutes and 30 seconds of actual game time. In reality, the game lasted from 8:30 PM on a Tuesday and ended at 02:25 AM on Wednesday, 5 hours and 55 minutes later. The match was played in 1936 between Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Maroons.
This game, with six overtimes, was finally won by Detroit Red Wings.