World Junior Hockey Play Time
Whether you’re a dedicated hockey fan or a first time viewer, a World Junior hockey game is always fun to watch. You’ll get the chance to see some of hockey’s rising stars competing in a high-stakes, fast-paced match. If you decide to tune in, how much time should you set aside to catch everything from puck drop to the final buzzer?
A World Junior Hockey game typically lasts between two and a half to three hours. However, the official game includes only three twenty-minute periods. Intermissions, stoppages for penalties, mandatory breaks for commercials, injuries, and overtime all bring the total time of the game up.
This article will take a closer look at some of the factors that make World Junior hockey games longer than the sixty minutes officially designated. Also, if you’re new to the sport, it might be worth taking a read through our article covering all aspects of hockey for beginners.
If you’ve ever been to any professional sports event, you’ll likely know that the time displayed on the play clock is never the total amount of time you’ll spend at the arena. If you’re planning on attending a World Junior hockey game, be sure to read our article covering how early you should get to a hockey game.
Even if you’ve only ever watched at home, you probably know you’ll need to set aside a decent amount of time to watch a whole game. This is certainly true for National Hockey League (NHL) games but also holds true for hockey games in the World Junior Championship.
These games, where the world’s greatest hockey players under twenty compete for the title of world champions, can last anywhere from two and a half to three hours. The games are officially divided into three twenty-minute periods, however, with short intermissions between periods. So why exactly is the total run time of a World Juniors game sometimes over four times as long as the official time allocated? Let’s take a closer look at some of the factors you may not have considered.
While hockey is a notoriously fast-paced sport, it is still subject to stoppages, just like any other sport. A stoppage refers to any time the play clock is stopped during the course of the game. While frequently pausing the action can get frustrating, it is crucial for the fairness of the match. Hockey games often come down to the last few seconds of play, so both teams must get all the time they’re promised on the ice.
While there are dozens of reasons for the clock to be stopped in a World Juniors game, here are a few common examples:
Injuries: While players in the World Juniors are outfitted in lots of high-quality protective gear, injuries still happen - anything from sprained ankles to chipped teeth. Most of the time, players can skate back over to their bench to receive medical treatment, but if a player is too severely injured to leave the ice on their own, the clock will be stopped to allow for treatment and safe transport.
Icing: Icing, explained by the Chicago Wolves as any time a player shoots the puck all the way from his team’s side of the rink across the red goal line at any point, is an automatic stoppage. The puck must be returned for a face-off. While the NHL uses hybrid icing rules, World Juniors games will call it automatically once the puck crosses the goal line. Accordingly, quite a bit of overall stoppage time is due to icing. We’ve also got an article covering hockey icing rules in much more detail.
Penalty Calls: There is a long list of penalties that can lead to the stoppage of the play clock, including players being tripped, too many players from one team on the ice, high sticking, and more. The puck may simply become out of play, which will also require a stoppage and a face-off. While face-offs do not take too long to set up, when they are all added together, it will add a decent amount of time to the overall game.
Time Outs: The International Ice Hockey Federation’s Official Rule Book outlines that each team is allowed a thirty-second time out during a game. Televised games, however, are also subject to mandatory commercial timeouts, where play is stopped to air commercials for viewers at home. Sponsors paying for these advertising spots allows the games to be aired, so commercials are more important than you’d think.
Broken Glass: It’s possible for a puck coming off an extremely powerful shot to break the glass around the rink. Technology has come a long way since the early days of hockey, so maintenance teams will usually be able to just repair the damaged section. Nonetheless, the clock must be stopped for this repair to take place to ensure the safety of both the audience and the players.
While it’s difficult to estimate precisely how many penalties the play clock will need to be stopped for, every game in the World Juniors competition will have designated intermissions. The IIHF states that there will be a fifteen-minute intermission between each period to allow for ice resurfacing and for the players to rest and strategize. As previously mentioned, this will also enable broadcast networks to air commercials.
Some hockey games will also make use of the intermission time for crowd interaction. Lucky winners may be able to come on to the ice to try their hand at shooting. Awards may be presented to members of the community and more. These events aren’t usually televised since they serve as entertainment for the viewers in the stadium while commercials air, but they’re a fun way to keep the crowd engaged.
Make sure to read our article looking into all the different aspects of hockey intermissions.
While commercials and games during intermissions are fun, the most important event that happens during these breaks is ice resurfacing. After hours of players making sharp turns and sudden stops, the ice is pretty rough and may not be as easy to skate on. This is why, typically during the second intermission, maintenance crews will drive an ice resurfacer over the rink to make it smooth and fresh for the rest of the game.
While all of the factors mentioned above play considerable roles in the overall time of a World Juniors hockey game, perhaps the most apparent reason for a very long game is overtime. Overtime is exciting for both those watching at home and fans actually at the game, as play becomes sudden-death and the stakes are higher than ever. While overtime can be fun to watch, it also adds time to a game that may already be feeling long.
World Juniors games go into overtime when the score is tied at the end of the regulation play - the three twenty-minute periods. What exactly that overtime looks like is different depending on the specific game being played, however. The IIHF has outlined different overtime rules for the final Gold Medal game than the Bronze Medal game and quarter and semi-finals.
Gold Medal Game: The final of the World Juniors Championship will consist of twenty-minute sudden death overtime periods until the game-winning goal is scored. Periods will have fifteen-minute intermissions between them.
All Other Games: All other games in the World Juniors Championship, including the Bronze Medal Game, will have a three-minute intermission and then a ten-minute sudden-death overtime period. If the game-winning goal has not been scored at the end of the ten minutes, a penalty shootout will occur.
While the nature of penalty shootouts means that a winner will be declared in a relatively reasonable amount of time, the twenty-minute periods required for the Gold Medal game can go on for quite a while. It’s definitely possible that this game could cross the three-hour mark. To learn more about all the rules and regulations for World Juniors games, check out this IIHF Guide & Record Book from Amazon.com.
Don’t let the time on the clock fool you; watching a World Juniors hockey game will take a minimum of two hours from your day. Even though the official clock may only show three twenty-minute periods, stoppage for penalties, overtime, intermissions, and more all contribute to the much longer total game time you can expect. Knowing this in advance allows you to plan accordingly so you won’t miss any of the action.
- Wikipedia: IIHF World U20 Championship
- Chicago Wolves: Explanation of Common Rules
- NHL: NHL-IIHF Major Rule Differences
- IIHF: Official Rule Book
- IIHF: Tournament Info 2020