NHL Timeout: How Many Timeouts Are In Ice Hockey?
| |

NHL Timeout: How Many Timeouts Are In Ice Hockey?

If you have been to an ice hockey game, you might notice that there are moments when all the players on the ice will move to the bench of their team for a few seconds or minutes. This period is not usually after the end of a period but rather in between the game. What occurs at that time is known as hockey timeouts.

What Are Hockey Timeouts?

What Are Hockey Timeouts?

Hockey timeouts are short breaks requested by a team in which players move to the bench for a stipulated time before returning to resume the game. 

For those familiar with live matches, there are times when a team’s coach or player might call a timeout leading to all the players moving off the ice for a brief moment. This is done so they can meet with their coach and re-strategise on their current gameplay. 

Timeouts are a major part of many sports, including ice hockey. Even timeouts are not as common in ice hockey as in other sports leagues; they still sometimes hold a deciding power over the outcome of a game.

How Long Are Hockey Timeouts Compared To Other Sports?

NHL Timeout Comparison To Other Sports League

Timeouts in ice hockey are shorter and not as common as in other sports leagues. The reason for this is not known, but this makes timeout valuable as they are not used until a time considered the “right moment”

NHL Timeout 

In the NHL, timeouts last 30 seconds, and each team is legible to only one timeout per game. This is why it is not very common in the NHL. In the NHL, timeouts can be called during regulation time, or if the game draws on, they can be taken over to overtime

However, a team can only call it once in a game. This means timeouts can only be called twice in an entire game, one by each team.

NCAA Hockey

The National Collegiate Athletic Association ice hockey league gives a one-minute timeout to each team in contrast to the thirty seconds of the NHL. In addition, each team get an additional timeout whenever a game draws into overtime. 

NBA Timeout 

The NBA has a different set of rules. In the NBA, a timeout last for 75 seconds and can be called as many as seven times by each team. However, teams are limited to four timeouts in the fourth period. 

This means that even though they go without utilising any timeouts in the first three periods, they can only use four in the fourth period. But players are allowed two additional timeouts whenever a game enters into overtime. 

NFL Timeout

When it comes to the National Football League, timeouts last for 120 seconds (two minutes). In addition, each team gets three timeouts per half (the NFL is divided into two halves of 30 minutes each and four quarters of 15 minutes).

MLB Timeout

Timeouts in the MBL are infinite. Players can call for as many timeouts as possible; however, the umpire does not acknowledge every timeout. Timeouts in baseball are shorter, usually taking about 20-30 seconds. 

Sport LeagueNumber of Timeouts (per game)Length of Timeout
NHLOne per team30 seconds
NCAAOne per team plus an additional timeout during overtime60 seconds
NFL6120 seconds
NBASeven plus two additional timeouts during overtime75 seconds
MLBinfinite20-30 seconds

What Happens When Hockey Timeouts Are Called?

What Happens When Hockey Timeouts Are Called?

In ice hockey, a timeout is called by either the players or the coach. Usually, players receive a signal from the coach before calling a timeout. 

Once a team calls a timeout, players from both teams exit the ice onto the bench for 30 seconds. When on the bench, the coach discusses with players and draws up last minutes strategies that he thinks can be advantageous to them.

During the period of a timeout, players are not allowed to handle the puck or use it to practice. After the end of a timeout, players are brought back to the ice, and the game is restarted. 

Television Timeouts In Ice Hockey

Television Timeouts In Ice Hockey

Television timeouts are two-minute breaks given for the display of commercials. The NHL showcases commercials three times every period. So this means there are nine television timeouts per game in the NHL. This is one of the ways the NHL generate its revenue.

Television breaks begin after the 16:00, 10:00 and 6:00 minute mark. However, they are delayed whenever a team is on the powerplay, a goal is scored or when icing is called. In addition, television timeouts can not occur during the final 30 seconds of the first and second periods and the last minute of the third period.

If you wonder what happens during a television timeout, it is similar to a regular timeout. Firstly, all players are sent back to the bench for two minutes, which is the timeout duration. 

During these two minutes, they rest and get the opportunity to plan out the net line of action with their coach. While this is happening, the arena ice crew go onto the ice and cleans it by removing excess ice shavings and ensuring the ice maintains its value.

However, those watching on a streaming device are met with having to watch commercials.

When Can A Timeout Be Called In The NHL?

Timeouts can not be called at any time in the NHL. There are moments when timeouts will not be given to a team. However, the general rule is that a timeout can only be called when there is a stoppage in play.

Timeouts can’t be called when the game is heated or in action. Other moments when timeouts can’t be called include:

  • Timeouts can’t be called at the same time for the same stoppage in play. Therefore if one team calls a timeout, the request of the other team will not be acknowledged until another stoppage is in play.
  • Also, timeouts are not granted after the end of a television timeout. This is because two minutes have been given for players to rest and discuss what their coach. 
  • Timeouts are not  given when a player is a player is about to take a penalty shot

Reasons Why Timeouts Are Called In Ice Hockey

Reasons Why Timeouts Are Called In Ice Hockey

Since teams have only one timeout call, they need to ensure they use it when it matters the most. Here are some of the reasons why a timeout can be called by a team.

1. To Re-strategise

After playing for a while, a team’s coach might decide to change the strategy in which his player attack or defend based on game observations. For this reason, a timeout can be called to update players on the new means of play.

This can also help them take advantage of the opposing team.

2. When Players Are Tired

It is only normal to get exhausted in ice hockey because the sport drains energy-wise. The energy to play in the NHL is even more. This is why shifts are a part of ice hockey.

However, there are times when players are unable to perform line change (during icing or when the opposing team is on powerplay), which makes them stay longer on the ice. When this happens, a timeout can be called so that players utilise the chance to rest until they are called back up. 

This way, they enter into the game more energised. 

3. After Consecutive Goals or A Big Flop

It is only natural that there are instances when players in a team perform a big flop that costs them goals. Let’s say a team gets two to three goals against them in about 3-5 minutes of playing; a coach can call a timeout so that his team can regroup.

This is because such instances can put a team in disarray and boost the opposing team’s momentum, giving the opposing team a higher chance of scoring more goals. Therefore the best thing teams do is to call for a timeout and give players time to regroup, as well as point out their mistakes to the players.

4. To Maintain Score Lead 

When an NHL team is in the lead and close to the end of the game by a near margin (about one goal), the coach might call for a timeout if he feels the opposing team is building momentum.

This allows the coach to discuss the best defensive game to ensure the game ends in their favour. 


The rules of timeouts in leagues like the IIHF differs slightly from the NHL. The most predominant being that both teams in the IIHF can call for a timeout during a single stoppage in play. 

Talking about rules, the NHL once had a rule that stated that if a team calls for time to challenge an offside or goal interference, their timeout will be lost if their challenge is deemed invalid. 

However, if the challenge is deemed valid and there was a goalie interference or offside error, they will be granted back their timeout. But this rule no longer exists as the punishment for an invalid challenge is a 2-minute minor penalty

Thanks for reading.

Similar Posts