How Early Should You Get to a Hockey Game?

How Early Should You Get to a Hockey Game?

Hockey Game Arrival

If it is your first time attending a hockey game, it may be a little difficult to pin down exactly what to expect. One of the primary questions fans ponder prior to arrival is just how soon they should show up to the arena. On the one hand, you do not want to show up hours early and be left sitting in the parking lot; on the other; you might be scared to death of missing some of the opening action.

In general, it is best to get to a hockey game about an hour before the puck is scheduled to drop. This will give you plenty of time to find the arena, secure a parking spot, locate your seats, and enjoy any of the numerous pre-game activities.

Although an hour is a fair estimate for an arrival time at a hockey game, this figure can be highly variable, depending on your experience level with attending games. If you are comfortable with the logistics of making it from your home to the arena seat and are not as interested in pre-game activities, arrivals as little as 15 minutes before game time are doable.

How early should you get to a hockey game?

While there is no exact time that fans are expected to arrive at a hockey game, there are a couple of essential points to consider.

First, it is one of the unwritten rules of hockey etiquette not to miss the puck drop. Hockey is a high-energy game, with home teams relying heavily on their home crowds to give them an edge in this regard. As such, if fans are strolling in after the start of the game, you are likely to be met with not-so-subtle frowns from some of the more passionate fans.

Another point to consider in terms of hockey etiquette is that leaving your seat during play is also a no-no. Hockey is extremely fast-paced, with a lot of rapid back-and-forth action. Goals are relatively infrequent in comparison to scores in other sports. They can happen in the blink of an eye, so if you are one of the fans who decide to do your shopping or take your bathroom break while the game is in action and cause other fans to miss an important play, you are likely to make even fewer friends than those who miss the puck drop.

Therefore, if you are a new hockey fan and want to be sure not to break any of the unwritten rules of hockey fandom, it is best to try and be at the arena about an hour early, if your schedule allows for it.

If this seems overly ambitious, take some time to mull all that goes into attending a hockey game, and you can see why giving yourself a nice cushion is in your best interest.

Finding the Arena

Setting your ETA at the arena an hour before the game is a great place to start. While it may seem like you just have to plug the address into your GPS and go from there, there are a number of factors that could add time to this ETA, including the following:

  • Traffic may be backed up around the arena due to the game
  • Some streets you expect to take may be blocked off and unexpected traffic patterns created specifically for the contest
  • For those travelling via rideshare or public transit, wait times and availability may be restricted

By giving yourself ample time for the arrival process, you can alleviate much of the stress associated with being unfamiliar with other parts of the pre-game process.

Secure Parking

Once at the arena, getting a parking spot will also take some time, as vehicles are likely to be directed in a systematic manner toward specific parking areas. As you are likely to have to pay for parking, be sure to have both cash and card available so that you can quickly and efficiently provide attendants with the preferred method.

For those not driving their vehicles, remember that your ride may not be able to get as close to the arena as anticipated, with large crowds likely to slow the walk to the entrance.

Locate Your Seat

Most arenas will open their doors an hour before the puck drops. If getting to the arena and finding parking is a breeze and you still have ample time before the one-hour mark, your time has not been wasted.

Although most modern fans have their tickets on their mobile devices, this cushion gives you time to pick up your tickets at will call and familiarize yourself with the entrances and exits of the arena.

If there is still time to spare, there is nothing wrong with catching a tailgate, being one of the first fans in line, and/or talking with other hockey fans about the upcoming game.

Once the doors are open and you are inside the arena, the first order of business is to locate your seat and get your bearings with respect to exits, restrooms, and concessions, as you do not want to waste any valuable time at intermission searching for any of these points.

Purchase Merchandise and Concessions

If you are interested in getting any team apparel, before the game is the time to do it, as the selection is likely to be better, and it gives you the chance to don the gear, should you so choose.

It is also a good idea to pick up snacks and beverages to last you through the first period during this time.

Enjoy the Pre-Game Skate

Watching the teams warm-up and appreciating the skill of the players is one of the great benefits of getting to the game well ahead of the puck dropping.

In addition, hockey is one of the most intimate of all of the sports, with fans able to get up-close and personal with the players. If you have small children, this may be a time to go down to the glass so they can be within inches of their favourite players.

After the Puck Drops: What to Expect

A hockey game consists of three 20-minute periods, with a 15-minute intermission after the first and second periods. These intermissions will give you the chance to use the restroom or replenish your food and beverages.

There will also be some brief stoppages throughout the game after goals and for such infractions as icing, offsides, or minor and major penalties. If you are in a restroom emergency or need to take an important call, these can be opportunities for you to quickly leave your seat without distracting other fans from the action.


While there is no universal time that is standard for when to arrive at a hockey game, it is better to arrive at the game early, especially if it is your first time in attendance. As such, an hour before game time is an excellent mark to shoot for, at least in your initial venture.

Coordinating the logistics of arriving at the arena, securing parking, and finding your seat upon entrance will all take some time, not to mention that you are likely to want to mingle with other fans, get merchandise and concessions, and enjoy the pre-game warm-up.

Remember, a couple of the critical unwritten rules of hockey are not to miss the puck drop and not to get out of your seat while the puck is in play. So any steps you can take to avoid violating these golden rules are well worth it, even if that means getting there a little earlier than is necessary!