How Long Is a Hockey Game Intermission?

How Long Is a Hockey Game Intermission?

Hockey Game Intermissions

Whether you are watching an NHL (National Hockey League) game, or you are planning on watching someone you know, you may be wondering how long a game is going to last and, on top of that, how long the intermissions are going to be.

A hockey game intermission is typically 10 to 20 minutes in length, and the number of intermissions differs based on the league being played. However, in NHL games, there will be two 17 minute intermissions as they are televised. During the break, the ice will typically be cleaned.

If you want to find out more about the different aspects that make up a hockey game, how long intermissions are, how it differs for NHL players and the purpose of having intermissions, we cover it all and more in this article.

How Long Is a Hockey Game?

The actual game time of a hockey game comes to 60 minutes (1 hour) divided amongst three 20 minute periods. However, if there is a tie at the end of the 60 minutes, the game will go into overtime.

Overtime consists of an additional 5 minutes (sometimes more) played until one of the two teams scores a goal. If they end overtime in a tie, it will then usually go into a shootout.

This is when each team will choose three players who will take turns taking breakaway like shots on the opposing net. However, a shootout does not occur in the Stanley Cup playoffs, instead 20 minute periods keep getting added until a goal is scored.

While the playing time is almost always 60 minutes, the actual game tends to take anywhere from an hour and a half to three hours, depending on the league and hockey level being played. This is as a result of intermissions between periods, stoppages that occur as a result of penalties or other reasons, TV timeouts if it is televised, and intermissions.

This timing applies to NHL hockey games, college hockey games, and recreational or kids hockey games. However, the total time of a game can differ based on the league in which the game is being played, as discussed in our article on the length of youth hockey games.

Here is more detail on how long a hockey game will take based on the league:

  • Recreational or Kids Hockey Games: Typically will last an hour to an hour and a half. Unlike higher levels, the clock will not be stopped for stoppages, and no intermissions will occur. This means that the 60 minutes will run consistently, leaving only a minute or so between periods. Overall, these games are meant to be fast. In some cases, the periods are only 15 minutes each, and the game could be less than an hour long.

  • Higher Level (Minor League) Hockey Games: At higher levels with kids about 15-18 years old, stoppages will result in the clock to stop, and an intermission will happen after the 2nd period. These games tend to last about 2 hours in total. Although, some lower-level teams may only have three 15 minute periods or two 15 minute periods followed by a 20 minute period.

  • AHL (American Hockey League) & College Hockey Games: These games follow the same time frame as NHL games do when it comes to game time and intermission time with three 20 minute periods with two intermissions, each after the 1st and 2nd period. However, since these games typically are not televised, the timing is more consistent, with games lasting about two to two and a half hours.

  • NHL Hockey Games: These games tend to last two and a half to 3 hours, and the timing will differ as televised games require more time for intermissions. Additionally, a TV timeout occurs around the 6, 10, and 14-minute marks in each period, which lasts about 2 minutes for commercials. For more details, take a look at our article discussing the length of NHL hockey games.

  • NHL Hockey Games During Playoffs: If it is the playoffs, games have been known to last up to 4-5 hours. This is as a result of the no shootout rule. Instead of a shootout occurring after a 5 minute overtime period, they add 20 minute periods of overtime until a goal is made.

Overall, there is no clear answer to how long a hockey game is. It can differ immensely depending on the league being played, if the game goes into overtime, how many stoppages occur throughout each period, and how long these stoppages last.

What Are Stoppages?

One factor that makes the game last longer than the 60 minutes of scheduled game time and up to the 3-hour mark is stoppages. This is when they have to stop the clock for several reasons. On average, these stoppages tend to occur every 2-3 minutes. In lower-level hockey, these stoppages tend not to result in the clock actually being stopped, but this will depend on the league.

The main reason for stoppages to occur includes:

  • Either team scores a goal.
  • A goal is scored, but the refs need to assess if it was a legal goal, which can take up to a few minutes as they review the footage.
  • One or multiple players gets a penalty.
  • The goalie stops (freezes) the puck, which occurs when a shot on the net occurs, but the goalie stops it and covers the puck.
  • Two or more players get into a fight, typically leading to penalties or injuries.
  • A player is injured on the ice.
  • The puck gets shot out of play, either into the crowd or the bench.
  • An offside call is called when a player of the other team enters the offensive zone and crosses the blue line before the puck has entered the zone.
  • An icing gets called, which occurs when a player passes or shoots the puck all the way down the ice from behind the center (red) line to behind the opposing team’s goal line. For more details, see our article all about icing in hockey.
  • The net gets moved out of its set position, and it needs to be put back in place.
  • If a fan or someone in the crowd throws something onto the ice, which is more likely to happen in NHL games where fans are known to get aggravated.

How Long Is an Intermission?

The timing of intermissions differs based on the league of hockey that is being played. This is mainly due to the age of the players, as well as if the game is televised or not. For the most part, intermissions will be 15 minutes long, and they will occur between the 1st and 2nd periods and the 2nd and 3rd periods. However, this differs based on the level that is being played.

  • Recreational or Kids Hockey Games: In these games, there typically are no intermissions. There may be a minute or so between periods for the team to get into position, but it is structured this way to go quickly.

  • Higher Level (Minor League) Hockey Games: These games, in most cases, will only have one 15 minute intermission while the ice is getting cleaned, but it may differ depending on the specific rules of the league.

  • AHL (American Hockey League) & College Hockey Games: These games will have two 15-15.5 minute intermissions between the first and second, and the second and third periods. These rules are consistent throughout all teams.

  • NHL Hockey Games: Since these games are televised, the intermissions tend to run a bit longer and last 17 minutes.

What Is the Point of an Intermission?

While for the fans and the crowd, an intermission seems to be a great time to use the restroom, get a refill on your drink or buy a snack, but there are other purposes for the intermission and why they are necessary.

The two main reasons are to clean the ice, where the ice resurfacing machine will come out and clean off the ice so that it is fresh and smooth for the next period. If this doesn’t happen, it can cause the players to trip if there are any dents in the ice or cause them to skate poorly as the surface is not smooth anymore. The other reason the intermission happens is to give the players a chance to take a break, among other things that we outline in the next section.

Suppose you are watching a higher level hockey game, especially an NHL game. In that case, the intermission is also a time for them to provide you with house entertainment and encourage you to buy from the vendors in the stadium. It also gives you a chance to use the restroom if you did not want to miss any part of the game.

What Do Players Do During an Intermission?

Since you typically see the players leave the ice and the bench during an intermission, you probably are wondering what they are doing during this break.

For the most part, the intermission is meant to give the players a break. It is an excellent time for them to get themselves organized and feel ready for the next period. There are many things that players may do during this time, and we have outlined them all below.


Since hockey is a high-intensity sport and requires players to exert a lot of energy as if they were sprinting for a few minutes at a time, a break for them is needed. Giving the players this chance to rest for 15 minutes is actually one of the main reasons intermissions occur between periods. Without these breaks for them to rest and catch their breath, they will not be able to perform their absolute best throughout the entire game.

Giving them this break can ensure that each player gives 100% right from the start to the end of the game.

Refuel & Rehydrate

Simultaneously, these players need a few minutes to refuel the energy they just expended. During this time, players may either drink some water or a sports drink and take a second to sit down and relax before they have to get back out there and push themselves. This way, they can play each 20 minute period with as much energy as possible.

You may even find some players eat a light snack with their drink during this time as a way to refuel. Although it is highly recommended to avoid heavy food before or during a game, some typical snacks that players might eat are cereal bars, fruit, or small sandwiches.

Use the Restroom

While this may go without saying, hockey players use the restroom too, and with the amount of water they are drinking throughout the game as a result of the energy they exert, it is likely they will have to go at some point. So, giving them 15 minutes allows them ample time to do what they need to do.

Fix Their Equipment

Even for the professionals, wearing a bunch of hockey equipment can be uncomfortable, and at times different gear may slide out of place. When they are on the ice, however, or even on the bench, they may not be able to fix their equipment correctly, and as a result, it can hinder their ability to give all of their focus to the game.

During the intermission, many players can then fix their equipment or even take it off for a minute to allow themselves a second to be comfortable without it. Some players may even take off their skates if they feel the need. This way, they can ensure they are comfortable and ready to focus on the next period.

Re-Tape Their Sticks

Over time the tape on the blade of a hockey stick will begin to wear out, even more so if the player gets a lot of time on the ice. As a result, players will need to re-tape their sticks often so that their stick does not end up damaged and can properly pass or shoot the puck without it sliding off.

For this reason, if you are a hockey player, you can never have enough hockey tape, and having this Sportstapee Hockey Tape is a great idea.

Talk About the Game Strategy

This intermission also gives coaches a great opportunity to talk to the whole team at once in a space away from the opposing team. During this time, the coach can talk strategy with the team and typically give pointers based on what they noticed in the previous period.

During this time, changes to an initial strategy may happen if they noticed the original strategy was not working before or if the other team caught on. Also, giving the players a chance to voice any opinions they have so the whole team can be ready to take on the next or final period.

Goof Off & Chat

While this may not be the most productive use of time during an intermission, it is inevitable that after a high-stress period, the team will want to goof around, talk to each other and get in a few laughs. Providing the team with a chance to bond, chat, joke around, and have a good time before they have to focus on the game again.

Although the coaches will not like the goofing around that occurs and will typically frown upon it when it happens, it cannot be denied that it will happen more than it should.

Complete Any Team Rituals

Even after all of the things that need to be taken care of in an intermission are taken care of, there still tends to be a minute or so left for the team to get together and complete any ritual if they have one.

Some teams may have team rituals such as chanting or saying some words of encouragement to each other. For other teams, each player may have their own superstition or tradition they need to complete before the period begins. This may be taking a shower to feel fresh and ready for the next period, or it may be meditating and sitting with their eyes closed as they envision a win for the team.

For some, it may be seen as downright weird such as Ray Borque needing to change his laces between periods or Wayne Gretsky, who always had to put the left side of his jersey before he tucked in the right side. All in all, though, this is a time for the players to do whatever it is they need to do, so they feel refreshed and ready for the upcoming period and the remainder of the game.

Final Thoughts

While the length of intermissions in a hockey game tends to be consistent, at 17 minutes for NHL games or 10-20 minutes for any other game, the game’s total length can differ immensely every single time. This is as a result of the game sometimes going into overtime, how many stoppages occur, and how long these stoppages last.

However, you can always count on getting at least 15 minutes between periods of higher-level games as the players will need a break to rest, refuel, and get ready for the remainder of the game. You may also want to review our article on how early to get to a hockey game if you plan on attending one in person.