The National Hockey League (NHL) has been home to numerous exciting and unforgettable games. One particular game that stands out is the longest in NHL history, a record held for over eight decades.
We'll go over that game along with four other games that currently hold the title of some of the longest games in history.
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What was the longest NHL game ever?
The longest game in NHL history took place on March 24, 1936. It was an extraordinary match between the Detroit Red Wings and the Montreal Maroons.
The two teams were battling it out during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup semifinals. This intense faceoff went to the sixth overtime, pushing both teams to their physical limits.
Finally, at the 116:30 mark into overtime, Detroit's Mud Bruneteau became the night's hero. With both teams (and the audience) exhausted, Mud Bruneteau's goal is one of the most notable in NHL history. This decisive goal not only sealed Detroit's victory but also etched this game into NHL history as the longest ever played.
Aside from the record-breaking time, this game also showcased the true essence of hockey: the relentless drive to compete, unwavering teamwork, and razor-sharp focus displayed by both teams.
As a player of the game myself, maintaining focus enough to go nearly six extra periods without letting in a goal is extremely difficult.
The unforgettable match-up between the Detroit Red Wings and the Montreal Maroons has undoubtedly earned its place in the annals of NHL history.
What are the five longest games in the NHL?
Now that we know what the longest game in the NHL is, let's go over the five longest games in the NHL.
March 24, 1936: Detroit Red Wings vs. Montreal Maroons - 176 minutes and three seconds
This game is the longest in NHL history, lasting a staggering 116 minutes and 30 seconds of overtime. It finally ended when Detroit's Mud Bruneteau scored the winning goal, securing victory for the Red Wings in the semi-final of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The game was played in the Detroit Olympia, and Normie Smith, the goaltender of the Detroit Red Wings, made a whopping 92 saves in the victory.
The Detroit Red Wings would win the Stanley Cup that year, besting the Toronto Maple Leafs in the finals.
The game is undoubtedly one of the most iconic moments in NHL history. For hockey players, it's hard enough to play a full 60-minute game. Now, imagine yourself having to play an additional two games on top of that.
April 3, 1933: Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Boston Bruins - 164 minutes and 46 seconds
Another historic encounter between the Maple Leafs and Bruins occurred in the 1933 Eastern Conference Final. This game lasted 104 minutes and 35 seconds of extra play, just 11 seconds shorter than their semi-final match in the same year. Toronto's Ken Doraty once again emerged as the hero, netting the winning goal.
The game was played in the Boston Garden, and the most impressive part was that up until the overtime goal was scored, both goaltenders Tiny Thompson and Lorne Chabot had not let any shots in. To go this long without letting in a single goal is quite impressive.
As a result, the Maple Leafs would win the series, and Doraty's goal stands out as one of the most notable moments in Leaf's history. They would lose in the Stanley Cup Final to the New York Rangers.
May 4, 2000: Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins - 152 minutes and 1 second
The game between the Flyers and Penguins is the longest in the modern NHL era, as you have to go back nearly 70 years to get to the next two longest games.
It was game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals and was played in Mellon Arena, the old Penguins stadium.
After regulation, the game was tied 1-1, thanks to outstanding performances by Ron Tugnutt for the Penguins and Brian Boucher for the Flyers.
Keith Primeau would eventually score the game-winning goal in the fifth overtime period. Although this wasn't a must-win for the Flyers, it was about as close as it gets, as it allowed the team to tie the series 2-2 instead of heading back to Philadelphia down 3-1.
I remember watching this game in its entirety. I was just ten years old when it happened, and I was in absolute awe of how the players could play this amount of time and still be able to function.
August 11, 2020: Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Tampa Bay Lightning - 152 minutes and 1 second
Although this was a playoff game, it wasn't played in the Blue Jackets or Lightnings arenas. It was during the COVID-19 bubble, so it was played in the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Canada.
I was particularly interested in this game, as the year prior, the Blue Jackets had stunned the Presidents Trophy-winning Lightning and swept them in 4 games.
Tampa Bay would go on to win this particular game, take a 1-0 series lead, and eventually win the Stanley Cup. However, I wonder if the series would have ended up being different if Columbus could have pulled off a win.
Joonas Korpisalo would make 85 saves in a losing effort, with Brayden Point scoring the game-winner in the fifth overtime.
April 24, 2003: Mighty Ducks of Anaheim vs. Dallas Stars - 140 minutes and 48 seconds
Although I am an Edmonton Oilers fan (A Canadian NHL team), I did have a soft spot for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, mainly because I was a big Paul Kariya fan. So, I remember being relatively young and watching this game, losing my mind when the Ducks finally scored over 140 minutes into play.
The game was played in the American Airlines Center, Dallas's home barn at the time, and it was game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals. The Ducks were considered the underdogs, as Dallas had a perennial powerhouse.
Petr Sykora would end up scoring the game-winning goal for the Ducks. At the same time, Jean-Sebastien Guigere would make some outstanding saves to keep the Cinderella Ducks in the game.
The Ducks would win the series and make it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, only to lose to the New Jersey Devils in seven games.
The role of overtime in NHL games
Overtime plays a crucial part in determining the outcome of an NHL game when teams are tied at the end of regulation time. Many fans who are new to the game may wonder how a game could even go on this long.
Maybe they've watched an NHL game during the regular season and noticed overtime never lasts more than five minutes. However, in the playoffs, things are much different.
In NHL regular-season games, overtimes are played with three skaters per side for five minutes. If neither team scores during this time, the game proceeds to a shootout.
However, during the playoffs, the format changes to a sudden death, 20-minute full-strength period, with the first team to score winning the game.
Throughout the years, multiple overtime periods have contributed to some of the most unforgettable games in NHL history. These dramatic and prolonged contests exemplify the importance of teamwork, strategy, and resilience.
Whether it's the regular season or the playoffs, the uncertainty and tension that come with overtime provide fans and players with an extra dose of excitement and unforgettable memories in hockey.
Role of the goalie in long NHL games
In the history of the NHL, extended games have often showcased the importance of goaltenders, who face immense pressure and often exhibit incredible endurance.
A player can make a mistake and be bailed out by teammates or the goalie. However, the game is over if a goalie makes a mistake, particularly in overtime. They truly are the last line of defence.
In such instances, goaltenders must remain focused and disciplined throughout, maintaining their energy levels and making timely saves when needed.
During these intense faceoffs, it is also crucial for goaltenders to maintain their composure, not letting fatigue or external factors affect their mental state or performance on the ice. Mental fortitude is just as important as physical ability when withstanding the challenges of a long game, especially with the goalie position.
Impacts of long games on team strategy
Coaches must adapt their plans to ensure their players can withstand extended play's physical and mental demands.
One of the primary concerns in these situations is player fatigue. As the game drags on, players are at a higher risk of sustaining injuries. Coaches may need to shuffle their lines more frequently to spread the workload and provide much-needed rest to their key players.
Another aspect to consider is the impact of such games throughout a series. Extended matches can take a toll on a team's overall playoff performance. The physical and mental exhaustion from a long game can potentially hinder a team's ability to perform optimally in future matches.
To prepare for the uncertainties of long games, teams may adopt specific strategies. A strong focus on conditioning and endurance may help offset the effects of fatigue. Additionally, emphasizing maintaining a neutral zone presence and using effective forechecking tactics can conserve energy.