How Many Timeouts In An NHL Game – NHL Timeouts Explained

Posted on June 18, 2024 by Dan Kent
Hockey Coach

Suppose you're a sports fan and new to watching the National Hockey League or professional hockey. In that case, you'll probably notice something different about hockey games in relation to the NFL, NBA, and MLB.

Hockey teams rarely take timeouts. You may see one late in the game or one after an icing call where the team has been out for an extended amount of time. However, you could watch five, ten, or even fifteen games without seeing a hockey timeout. 

Let's go over why that is.

How many time-outs are allowed in an NHL game?

Each team during an NHL game gets one timeout. This not only includes regulation play but an overtime period as well.

So, in a playoff-type situation where a game has gone into multiple overtimes, no additional timeouts are granted to NHL teams.

This is very different than a system like the National Football League, which gets three timeouts every half, or even Major League Baseball, which has no limit for the number of timeouts taken.

How do timeouts work in the NHL?

A timeout must be taken in hockey during a normal stoppage of play. While the play is going on, coaches and players cannot call a timeout.

When the officials are alerted by a player or coach that they want a timeout, players from both teams are allowed to go to their respective benches. It is typical for a coach to draw up any last-minute strategies concerning the game at this point on a whiteboard or via communication with the players.

In the National Hockey League, only one team is allowed to call a timeout during a stoppage in play. This means that if Team A calls a timeout during a stoppage, Team B is not allowed to call their timeout after that timeout ends.

This is different than the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). With international hockey, both teams can call a timeout during the same stoppage in play. The only stipulation is that the second team calling the timeout must do so before the original timeout expires.

How long are hockey timeouts?

Each team is allowed one 30-second timeout per game.

Can an NHL team lose their timeout?

No, a team cannot lose their timeout in the NHL anymore. Before the rules changed, an NHL coach could ask for an offside challenge or goaltender interference if they had their timeout. If they lost the challenge, they would forfeit their timeout.

However, unlike football, where a single timeout could be the difference between winning and losing the game, they are less impactful in the NHL. So, many NHL coaches challenged borderline calls and shrugged it off if they gave up their timeout.


Photo by Mark Mauno licensed under CC BY 2.0

Because of this, the NHL changed the rules where an NHL team does not lose their timeout if a coach's challenge is unsuccessful. Instead, they are assessed a 2-minute penalty. As a result, challenges were drastically reduced.

Why would a team call a timeout?

There are many reasons why an NHL team would call a timeout. For one, they may want to discuss strategy and get their ducks in a row near the end of the game. This could be a team that is winning or a team that is losing and be called to discuss defensive or offensive strategies.

Secondly, a coach may call a timeout if he feels his team's play is spiralling out of control. This is typical when you see a team score multiple goals in short order that has a team panicking.

Another reason for a timeout would be in the event of a power play. If the players that play on the power play have been on the ice for an extensive amount of time, a timeout may be called by the coach to rest those players so they can play them on the power play.

Finally, a team may be forced to call a timeout if their team has iced the puck. Teams are not allowed to change personnel when icing the puck. As a result, you can have some exhausted players on the ice if they've been on for an extended time. As a result, a team may call a timeout to rest those players for thirty seconds

When is a team not allowed to call a timeout

There are a few particular instances when a team is not allowed to call a time-out in the NHL.

First, when a player is about to take a penalty shot. A common strategy in the National Football League is to wait before the team kicking a field goal snaps the ball and call a timeout. This is called icing the kicker, and you cannot do this in the National Hockey League to a player about to take a penalty shot.

Second, you cannot call a timeout if the other team has called one during the same stoppage in play. As noted earlier, it is not the same in the IIHF, where two timeouts are permitted during one play stoppage.

You're also not allowed to call a timeout right after a tv timeout. Players and coaches have already had two minutes to rest and discuss strategy, so the NHL does not allow them to call one.

Why are there TV timeouts?

Although each team gets one 30-second timeout a game, there are many TV timeouts during a game. This is so advertisements can be shown to the viewers watching on television, along with the ice crew coming out and scraping the ice surface to reduce the amount of snow.

How long are commercial breaks?

Like most commercial breaks on a standard television, they are two minutes long and happen after the game's 6, 10, and 14-minute marks. This means that if play runs to the 7-minute mark and the whistle is blown, they will go to a tv timeout. However, if the play stops at the five-minute mark, play will continue.

What happens during an NHL television timeout?

If you are at home watching on television, you'll see two minutes of commercials before the game returns. However, if you've bought tickets to an NHL game and are attending, you'll see many things. For one, the ice crew will come out and scrape down the center of the ice. This is to remove any excess snow from the ice to increase the quality of play.

You'll typically see the goalies head to their respective benches. Them, along with the players and coaches, will discuss strategy and game events.

Finally, they'll typically run games or contests for the fans in the rink during the commercial breaks. This can be a fun way for fans to win prizes or learn more about their team. It is typically a form of entertainment, considering that the people at the live game do not see the 2 minutes' worth of commercials.

Players are not allowed to handle pucks or warm-up goalies during a tv timeout or normal timeout.

How long is an NHL intermission?

The NHL intermissions are around seventeen minutes in length. This is much longer than a typical tv timeout, and the length allows the Zamboni to clean the ice and give the players a break.


Photo by Mark Mauno licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

During the intermission, they'll often put on events on the ice to keep the fans entertained.

How do NHL players know when it’s a TV timeout?

Tv timeouts are run after the first whistle at the 6, 10, and 14-minute mark. Players know this, and you'll see the goalies, in particular, head toward the benches when play stops at these intervals.

Also, the Zamboni doors typically open and the ice crew comes on the ice. So, even if a player didn't know the current time played, they'd know it was a commercial break with the crew coming out.

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,

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