When Does Hockey? [Ultimate Guide!]

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When Does Hockey?

It’s a question that comes up a lot around these parts. When does hockey start and when does hockey end? Well, like many things in life, it depends on where you are. The season starts on the last Monday of October in the northern parts of the country and slowly makes its way south. By the time you read this, the 2019-20 season will be well under way. However, not everywhere in Canada is accessible by vehicle so you may not know when the season starts there. Typically, in the southern parts of the country, it starts in the middle of October and doesn’t get going north of Toronto until late November or early December. The season ends a couple of weeks later in the northern parts of the country. So, if you ever find yourself in the southern parts of Ontario, you’ll know what season it is. In some places, like New York City, it starts in the middle of March and ends in the middle of April.

The Basics

Hockey is Canada’s favourite winter sport. It’s exciting to watch, especially when the games are on TV. But there’s a lot more to hockey than meets the eye. To fully understand when hockey starts and ends, you need to look at the basics – the rules. Let’s dive into them.

Roster Size

Hockey is a team game and there are six players on the ice at any given time. This is known as a lineup. The ice can’t handle ten players, so nine players need to break away for a while. In the NHL, the average NHL roster has between 25 and 30 players. So, if you’re a member of an NHL team, you know that the season is almost over by the time your roster is set. The exceptions are some of the bigger market teams, like the New York Islanders, who can afford to have a couple of extra players on their roster all year long. As a beginner, you should only have a small number of players on your roster. A good rule of thumb is to only have five or six players on your team at any given time. This will help you organize games and practice sessions. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself by having a large roster all the time. As you get more experienced, you can have more than six players on your team, but it’s a good idea to keep your roster small in the beginning.

Game Length

Hockey is a fast-paced game. The official NHL Game Length Guide puts the average game length at four hours and forty-two minutes. That’s what we call a blockbuster game! Most of the time, the games go according to the schedule, which is generally made up of three forty-minute periods plus overtime. The three-period schedule was first implemented in 1975 and was designed to help reduce idling time at the end of the game. If the third period is tied after 90 minutes, there is no overtime and the game ends in a tie. So, even though the game seems to drag on, it’s really not that bad. At least the ice-breaking activities keep the boredom at a minimum.


Hockey is a very competitive game and scores are very important. Some people even get a little carried away and start calling it the world’s second-favourite sport after golf. The rules don’t allow for players to run around with the puck endlessly, which is what makes hockey exciting to watch. When a player carries the puck into the offensive zone, it’s a legal play. However, there needs to be someone there to pass the puck to. If nobody is there, the play is dead. This is why the game can be so frustrating to watch if you’re a defensive-minded individual. You’ll see a lot of one-on-one battles for the puck along the boards. Sometimes, the puck just doesn’t want to go in and you have to do everything in your power to get it in the net. Another thing you’ll see a lot of is goalie interference. When a goalie interferes with a player carrying the puck into the offensive zone, it’s usually a two-minute minor penalty at best. Thankfully, with technology advancing and cameras getting smaller, it’s easier to prove that the goalie interfered with the play.

Penalty Box

You’ll need a place to channel all that competitive energy after the game. Thankfully, hockey provides us with a ready-made structure in the form of the penalty box. Every team has four ‘dynamic’ forwards, who can enter the penalty box and get some offensive-minded play going. These guys are usually your enforcers, who will fight any opponents along the ice and also put the puck in the net. They are vital to the team’s success. In addition to the four ‘dynamic’ forwards, the penalty box also houses the team’s captain and coach. Even though they can’t get into the fight, they need to be there to teach the other players and keep things in check. Plus, the captain gets to choose the player he wants to defend and, in return, he gets to choose the player he wants to attack. It’s another great example of collaborative rule-making.

As you can see from the above, hockey isn’t one-sided. There are a lot of rules that help make the game fair for everyone involved and keep it fun. The above are just the basics. As a beginner, it’s important to remember what the basics are so you don’t get overwhelmed by the rules. Once you get into the swing of things, try out different ways to improve your team’s odds of winning. Have fun!

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