Heading out to a hockey game for the first time? & wondering what to wear? In this guide I’ll answer the simple question – are ice hockey games cold?

Yes, hockey games are cold but not freezing – unless they are outside. You should bring a sweater or jacket at the very least. Typically the ambient air temperature is between 50-60°F  (10-15°C) while the ice temperature is around 24°F  (-4,4 °C). Hockey games are colder the closer you are to the ice and usually colder if it’s cold outside and if there is no heating, or if there are fewer people in the rink (emitting body heat).

It’s better to bring too many layers than not enough. If you get too hot jumping up and down supporting your team then you can take some layers off – but it’s no fun being cold at a hockey game.

What Affects Hockey Game Temp?

How cold it depends on a number of different factors from the size of the rink to where you’re seated. Let’s run over the main things that determine the temperature so you can figure out how many layers to bring for your next game.

1. Indoors or Outdoor

Some games are outside which means it will be much colder and dependent on the outside temperature. Advice: Wrap up warm!

2. Where You Sit

Larger rings with more seats and more people are going to be warmer due to the number of people in the rink emitting body heat. This won’t make much difference if you close to the ice, but the further away from the ice you are and the higher up of the ground – the higher the temperature. The lower level is much colder than the upper level . That is because hot air rises and you’ll be further away from the ice.

ice rink temp

3. Outside Temperature & Heating

For some rinks the colder it is outside the colder it is inside – meaning the weather directly affect the rinkside temperature. For larger more advanced ice rinks they will have heating systems that maintain a more steady temperature – cooling down and even heating up the inside of the rink when it’s too cold outside. The temperature the rinks sets it at is a balance between comfort and energy saving. Most ice rinks with rinkside thermostats usually set it between 50-60°F  (10-15°C). Incredibly the average Canadian ice rinks use twice as much energy heating the inside space of an ice rink (42%) as they do on refrigeration and maintaining the ice temperature (23%).1

4. Proximity to Air Ducts & People

Sometimes you might be sat near a cold or warm spot, purely based on where you are sat. The design of the rink and the heating and cooling systems will be unique for each rink. Sitting under a vent or in a more exposed area will make you more susceptible to cold – whereas if you’re sat between rows and have plenty of bodies between you and the ice then they’re will provide thermal barrier – keeping you warmer.2

If you know that you’ll be sat closer to the ice then prepare for more cold. If the rink is likely to be fully packed and you’re further away from the ice then staying warm will be less of an issue.

5. Every Rink is Different

It’s hard to determine the precise temperature of a rink because each ice rink is different. Larger rings with heating systems and more professional games will usually be set at a similar temperature as directed by the NHL.

I know at my own rink that it definitely feels warmer in the summer than it does in the winter.

What to Wear at a Hockey Game?

Not shorts or t-shirt! The temperature is colder than room temperature or what you are used to at home. You’ll want to wear warm comfortable clothing. That insulates you against the cold bench as it does the frigid air.

If you’re sitting closer to the ice the colder it will be, but it will still be cold elsewhere in the rink. Bring a sweater or hoodie at the very least and a hat and gloves. Your head emits the most heat – so wearing a hat will help preserve body heat and regulate your temperature.

Your extremities, hands, and feet get the coldest fastest because they are the most distant parts of your body. Keep these warm by wearing gloves and thick socks.

ice rink warm couples

How to Stay Warm at a Hockey Game

The average NHL game lasts 2.5 hours from start to finish (60 minutes of play time). So it’s smart to have the right clothing and follow the tips below on staying warm:

1. Wrap up warm

Wear sweaters, joggers or jeans. Bring a hat and gloves.

2. Bring a hot drink

Pack a flask of hot tea or coffee to warm your hands between sips.

3. Go somewhere warm beforehand

The best way to stay warm during a hockey game is to be warm before you enter the rink. If you can spend at least half an hour inside at a coffee shop or somewhere that’s at room temperature. That way when you go into the rink you’ll be able to stay warm throughout the game.

hockey game action

Ice temperature

Throughout a hockey game with lots of fans in the rink, the ice temperature is likely to heat up from 18 to 24°F  (-8 to -4°C)

“The NHL’s standard for maximum temperature at the conclusion of a game is 24 degrees.” Derek King.

Without thousands of fans emitting body heat, the rink is usually prepped for a large increase in temperature and humidity. Something that rinks hosting NHL games spend huge amounts of time and resources on getting right.

The right ice conditions are important for players to get the most from their game. Too warm or humid and the ice can become slow and soft. Too cold or low humidity and the ice can be brittle.

Final thoughts

If you skipped to the end: hockey games are between 50-60°F  (10-15°C).

Hockey games are not freezing (unless outside!) but they are pretty cold and while you might feel fine for the first period. By the third you might be shivering if you’re not prepared.

Remember it is better to have too many layers than not enough. If you’re wearing your team’s jersey it’s big enough to fit over a couple of layers and a big sweater.  Enjoy the game and if you get cold, get up and cheer your team on.

P.S Bring a hat and gloves and a hot drink