How long is a hockey game? NHL, college, and high school all play very different games

Plus: how long was the longest hockey game of all time?
Detroit Red Wings v Chicago Blackhawks
Detroit Red Wings v Chicago Blackhawks / Patrick McDermott/GettyImages

Hockey: it’s a game you play with sticks. On ice! This is probably, if you’re not a huge sports fan, the basic info even you know about one of the most popular games in North America (and perhaps the world). But if you’re not a fan, and a fan friend invites you to a game, you may be wondering: how long is a hockey game?

…Specifically because you may be wondering how long it will be until you get out of there and on your way. The good news is that hockey is actually – in our estimation – a lot of fun to watch, even for non-sports fans. Whether you’re talking about a professional hockey game in the NHL (National Hockey League), or a high school game, they’re quick, sometimes violent, but always entertaining.

That’s not why you’re here, though. You want to know how long they are. So let’s break down the length of a hockey game, ranging from an NHL game, to a college game, to a high school game. Plus some info about the longest game of all time.

How long is an NHL hockey game? How long is a professional hockey game?

We’re in the middle of the NHL season as of this writing, which stretches 82 games from October to April. So that’s potentially a lot of hockey to watch for a lot of the year. But how much time will it cost you in actual minutes?

Here are the official rules on how long an NHL hockey game is, per the NHL:

“The time allowed for a game shall be three (3) twenty-minute periods of actual play with a rest intermission between periods.”

So in essence, a professional hockey game is 60 minutes long, right? Well, not exactly. The intermissions last 15 and a half minutes to 17 minutes each, so we’re already stretching up to a potential 94 minutes for a hockey game.

There are also, for the NHL, three media timeouts per period so they can air commercials. Given all that, the typical hockey game on TV (or if you’re watching a broadcast game in person) will last about two and a half hours.

However, there are also time outs, and potential overtime (which is 5 minutes, or longer if it goes into a shootout), so games can stretch as much as three hours long… And sometimes even longer. That’s a lot of hockey!

How long is a college hockey game?

Derek Mullahy
2024 Beanpot Tournament - Consolation Game / Richard T Gagnon/GettyImages

A college hockey game has pretty much the same structure as the NHL games, with one major exception. There are three, 20 minute periods, plus the breaks which last 17 minutes and 30 seconds. And since college hockey is also broadcast, it has commercials, as well.

The two differ only in that college hockey doesn’t go into overtime except for during playoffs – games are allowed to end in a tie. Meaning if you’re wondering how long is a college hockey game, the answer is anywhere between two hours and three hours, but about five minutes shorter (potentially) than an NHL game.

Wow, think of all the things you can do with that five minutes back!

How long is a high school hockey game?

High school hockey, as you might imagine, is much shorter than NHL hockey or college hockey because they’re not being broadcast and don’t have the media rules.

Beyond that, though, the periods are only 17 minutes, and the intermissions are only 12 minutes. So at its base, a high school hockey game is 75 minutes long. Add in time outs, and you’re still going on average an hour and 45 minutes to two hours. But it’s still much shorter than NHL or college hockey.

Of note, high school hockey is allowed to go into overtime, but it’s five minutes long and if there’s a tie at the end, that’s it. No shoot-out to untie the tie, a la the NHL.

How long was the longest hockey game of all time?

The longest hockey game of all time was held between the Detroit Red Wings and the Montreal Maroons. It was Game 1 of the semifinals of the playoffs… In March of 1936. That’s right: the record for longest hockey game has been held for 88 years at this point.

Including a whopping six overtimes, the game lasted a total of 176 minutes and 3 seconds. That’s almost three hours long. Just think how long it would have run if they had TV to broadcast it on back then! Probably much longer!

Got questions about history, trivia, or anything else? Send an email to and we might answer here on the site!

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