Are Hockey Games Cold? How Cold Is It in a Hockey Rink

Posted on June 19, 2024 by Dan Kent
hockey rink

Heading out to a hockey game for the first time and wondering what to wear? This guide will discuss everything you need to know temperature-wise before going to your first game.

Of note, for the most part, I will be talking about attending a professional hockey game in this article. Recreational hockey arenas are much colder than professional hockey arenas, primarily due to the technology in the ice that allows an NHL arena to be warmer. For recreational arenas, you'll want to plan to dress a little warmer. However, many of them have spectating areas in the warmth and are protected from the cold temperatures at ice level.

Let's get started.

Is it cold at an ice hockey game?

Yes, hockey games are cold but not freezing – unless outdoor. While a hockey arena is not warm enough for most to attend in shorts and a t-shirt, it is certainly not cold enough to be dressed in a scarf, mittens, toque, winter jacket, and winter boots.

What temperature are NHL arenas kept at?

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 there is no heating or if there are fewer people in the rink (emitting body heat).

Keep in mind these are typical conditions for an NHL game. If you are at a recreational arena, the temperatures can vary wildly. I have played and attended some recreational rinks where I needed a winter jacket and others that were similar temperature of an NHL rink. Many recreational rinks have overhead heaters on the ice-level seats, helping with the cold.

Because of the technology and the knowledge of more advanced ice technicians, they can typically keep temperatures warmer at an NHL ice hockey arena. A recreational rink doesn't normally have this luxury and must keep the rink colder to keep the ice frozen.

How should I dress for a hockey game?

Plan to dress for a hockey game like you would go for a walk on a brisk fall day. It is also important that if you are deciding to wear the jersey of your favourite team, you're factoring that into the layers you're wearing. Jerseys are typically reasonably warm.

Also, if you wear layers, it is better to wear too many than not enough. If you get too hot jumping up and down supporting your team, you can take some layers off – but it's no fun being cold at a hockey game. 

By slightly overdressing and removing layers if you feel too hot, you can ensure your experience is enjoyable.

What do you wear under a hockey jersey?

Depending on your comfort with the cold, you can wear anything from a t-shirt, long-sleeve shirt, hoodie, or even a light jacket underneath your hockey jersey.

An actual hockey jersey is generally quite warm. From my own experience, I typically will wear a t-shirt underneath and be more than comfortable inside the arena.

Can I wear shorts to a hockey game?

Whatever you choose to wear to a hockey game, whether it be shorts, pants, sweatpants, or a skirt, depends on your overall comfort in the cold. I have rarely seen someone go to a hockey game with shorts on unless it is a recreational arena with a heated seating area inside.

Should I bring a jacket to a hockey game?

If you are worried about being cold inside a hockey game, you can easily bring a jacket and take it off if you're too hot. Dressing in layers when going to a hockey game, particularly if it is your first experience inside an arena, is a wise decision.

The one thing you don't want to do is underdress and be cold and uncomfortable for the entire game.

Can you bring a blanket to a hockey game?

For the most part, you can bring a blanket to a hockey game, yes. In order to make sure you can, however, it would be easiest to call the NHL building you Are going to to see if outside items are allowed. 

For a recreational arena, however, I cannot see them not allowing a blanket into the game, especially because the arenas are typically much colder. Of note, because recreational hockey arena temperatures are much colder, many bring blankets or seat protectors to help with the cold bench they're likely to be sitting on if they choose to sit at ice level.

What affects the temperature at a hockey game?

How cold it is depends on several 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.

Indoor or outdoor

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

Where you sit

Larger rings with more seats and more people will be warmer due to the number of people in the rink emitting body heat.

This won't make much difference if you are close to the ice, but the further away from the ice you are and the higher up 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.

Outside temperature and heating

For some rinks, the colder it is outside, the colder it is inside – meaning the weather directly affects 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 rink 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

Proximity to air ducts and other people

Sometimes you might be sat near a cold or warm spot, purely based on your position. The rink's design and 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 will provide a thermal barrier – keeping you warmer.2

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

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.

How to stay warm at a hockey game

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

Wrap up warm

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

Bring a hot drink

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

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.

Temperature of the ice at an NHL game

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 the 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 skip 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 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.

Dan Kent

About the author

Growing up in a hockey hotbed (Calgary, Alberta. And yes, I'm an Oiler fan), I decided to put my love and knowledge of the game to work. I started at five and am still playing today into my early 30s. By acquiring Brave Stick Hockey and rebranding it to Big Shot Hockey in 2023, I plan to teach people about this great game and educate them on the best equipment and history of the game. On a career level, I am in finance, running one of the largest financial websites in Canada, Stocktrades.ca.

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