How Do Timeouts Work In The NHL?

Timeouts are not a huge part of the game in hockey compared to football or basketball but they still have their place in the game. And since many fans do not often see timeouts called in hockey they often do not know the rules surrounding them.

But before we get into all the rules regarding timeouts in hockey let’s explain what they are first.

A timeout in hockey is a thirty-second break that can be called by either team during a stoppage in play.

Each team only gets one timeout per game. Any player on a team can call a timeout but in most cases, they are called by the coaches or one of the captains.

A timeout cannot be called when the game is still on. Unlike football or basketball, a timeout in hockey must be called when the clock is not running.

One timeout a game may seem like a small amount but in many cases, teams will not even use their one timeout throughout the game. This is because hockey players are given many chances to rest throughout the game.

Between the three commercial timeouts, each period players are often able to catch their breaths and get ready for the next shift. These three commercial timeouts come after the first whistle following the fourteen minutes, ten minute and six-minute marks of the period.

Players are also afforded breaks through intermission and line changes. Between each period players will get seventeen minutes of intermission to get ready for the next period.

Hockey players also tend to utilize quick short shifts in order to get the most out of their players. This allows the players to stay as fresh as possible for the next shift. All these factors added together means timeouts are not often needed in hockey for general stamina.

Why Do Hockey Teams Call Timeouts

Now that you know what a timeout is in hockey as well as the rules surrounding it, it’s time to break down the different reasons that teams decide to call timeouts during games.

Getting A Message Across

Likely the most common reason that timeouts are called in the NHL is so that the coach can communicate something to his players. There are many different situations in which a coach may call a timeout in order to explain some things to his team.

An example of this could be seen when a goalie is pulled and the coach wants to instruct his players on how to play out the last minute of the game. A timeout could be called before a big powerplay so that the team can go over their powerplay strategy one last time.

Or a timeout can be called just to simply motivate the players with an inspiring speech. Hockey is a fast-paced game and there are few chances for the coach to speak to all the players once they leave the dressing room.

Calling a timeout gives the coach an opportunity to address the team as a whole, often in the key moments of a game.

Give Their Players A Break

Though we stated earlier in the article that timeouts aren’t as necessary in hockey due to more rest time for the players, there are still situations in which a timeout can be used to help out some tired defenders.

One of the most common situations of this in action happens when a player ices the puck. When you ice the puck the NHL rulebook states that the team that iced the puck is not allowed to change lines at the stoppage.

Otherwise, you could simply launch the puck to the other team’s end if you were tired.

Ultimately this rule results in some players being stuck in the defensive zone for shifts significantly longer than their average. These exhausted players start to defend poorly as they run out of energy and can often give up a goal.

Coaches will often call a timeout when icing occurs in these situations as even though they cannot put on a new line they can at least buy the players thirty seconds of rest.

Stop Opposing Team’s Momentum

Another reason that teams may call a timeout is to stop the opposing team’s momentum. Similar to taking a basketball player of their spot hockey teams may call a timeout so that the opposing team loses some momentum.

This break in play will allow the defending team a chance to regroup all while stop the opposing teams attack for at least thirty seconds.

This method does not always work but getting a pause in the game when one team is dominating is always going to benefit the team that is falling behind.

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